The Brand Identity

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Smörgåsbord and Colophon Foundry create a type family that captures the spirit of Wales

Cardiff and Amsterdam-based studio Smörgåsbord was commissioned by the Welsh Government to create a typeface that would embody the Welsh spirit and communicate a ‘sense of place’. Working closely with Colophon Foundry, the studio created Cymru Wales Sans, but soon realised that a broader typographic palette was required. This led to two additional typefaces, Cymru Wales Serif and Cymru Sans Transport.

The goal was to present Wales to the world in an authentic way without wandering into the territory of pastiche or parody. They achieved this by weaving eight digraphs (unique letter combinations) into an otherwise contemporary type family. The flowing, cursive digraphs, derived from the Welsh alphabet, add a distinct character to the typefaces, separating them from the English language. Due to a previous lack of digital characters, they are usually spelt using two individual letters but actually represent a single letter. Particular emphasis is given to the curved ‘d’ character, which replaces the regular lowercase ‘d’, leading to it quickly becoming the cornerstone of both typefaces.

CW Sans and CW Serif take cues from Welsh typographic heritage, such as the Black Book of Carmerthen and the Red Book of Hergest, as well as the exuberant character forms found in other minority languages like Icelandic and Arabic script.

Although part of the same family, CW Sans Transport is designed specifically for the Welsh Government’s ‘Transport for Wales’ organisation and is closely aligned with the core Wales national brand that Smörgåsbord launched in 2017. The typeface is an all caps, stencilled adaptation of CW Sans.

Although the Welsh Cymraeg language is one of the oldest in Europe, and was once spoken by around 90 percent of the population, a 2019 survey found that it is now only known by around 29 percent of Welsh people. It is hoped that the positive reception of the typefaces will see future generations take an interest in the historic language.

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