6 May 2013

Pacific typeface design pioneer's prolific legacy

3:15 pm on 6 May 2013

A late Samoan-born typeface designer who shunned the tools of the digital age but was revered by the international design community lives on in fonts used by millions of people every day.

The hand-drawn letters of Joseph Churchward, who died just over a week ago, appear in myriad media, from opticians' eye charts to the title of the Lonely Planet travel guide books.

Mr Churchward used his Samoan, Chinese, Tongan, English and Scottish ancestry to inform his work, producing 600 typefaces - more than any other individual designer in the world.

A curator of Pacific cultures at the Te Papa museum, Safua Akeli, says Mr Churchward also incorporated the politics of the day into his designs, as his Churchward Maori font demonstrates.

"He called it Churchward Maori because he wanted Maori to come together and be united for the cause and he had lived here since the 40s so Churchward was well aware of the politics of the time and also of relationship between Pacific and Maori as well."

Safua Akeli says Joseph Churchward's family were also a major source of inspiration.