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Zootype: Is it a case of typographic Latin American amnesia? by FOROALFA
Posted by Admin On Thu 03 Jul, 2014
by Victor Garcia

Saying “typography” is to say “memory” and the letter is the conceptual and factual repository of the memory of the culture and society in its multiple expressions at all latitudes. That was very clear for the powerful and despotic emperor Qin Shi Huangdi when unifying China by fire and sword: once the highest office assumed –which made him master of the world–, in 213 BC ordered to burn all the historical books of the ancient subjected feuds, so the history began with him.1 Fact is that letter is, also, power.

The development of typography history in the Old Europe accumulates almost six centuries, and is marked in such a multiplicity of vicissitudes, discoveries, inspirations, confusions and intrigues from the very beginning – it suffices to recall the painful dispute between Francesco Griffo and Aldus Manutius about copyrights of alphabets masterfully cut by the first one and wisely used by the second at the legendary incunabula published by famed Venetian scholar–2 which is scarcely affordable summarize it in a succinct monograph.

This is not the case for our brief Latin American contemporary history of typography –strictly understood in relation to type design– as yet has the advantage of a fledgling production, which could allow typographic researchers on this novel regional discipline extend details in a few pages, without need to restrict the wealth of information.

But even having that advantage, and despite that essays and historical writings in this field are not yet particularly abundant, it often happens that some data are omitted by some authors, presumably by oblivion, if not by a biased and restrictive vision about the typographical phenomenon in the region, which excludes from their consideration those developments that do not match their aesthetic and stylistic preconceptions, even when could have meant a remarkable typographical event.

Zootype Regular, alfabeto con fauna de aire, tierra y agua. Diseño: Víctor García, 1997. 2º Premio Categoría «Fun», 2nd. International Digital Type Design Contest, organizado por Linotype; Frankfurt am Main, 1997.

Zootype Regular, alphabet with air, land and water fauna. Design: Victor Garcia, 1997. 2nd Prize ”Fun“ Category. 2nd. International Digital Type Design Contest, organized by Linotype, Frankfurt am Main, 1997.

This often happens with Zootype, a font designed by this writer and awarded in Germany in 1997. This award, which not seems arbitrary to consider of regional concern, was omitted some time ago in a local academic report devoted to the state of typography in the region, and was introduced as lecture at the Typographic Congress of Valencia.3 Later, after authorʼs request, omission was corrected in an online version, now undiscoverable. But it is presumed the original document keeps the originʼs informative omission. Which is a problem for the designer, whose work was recorded in an inconsistent and confusing way in an academic paper of international dissemination; and also for any researchers who could access to that report and / or use it as a bibliographic source, because by having two apparently identical documents, one digital and elusive and one printed in a particular book, in case of find discrepancies, it is likely to be granted more credit to printing over the digital material. To make this denial process and/or forgetting –perhaps unconsciously– even deeper, it is worth mentioning a local book recently published which also deals with regional typography,4 that does not have any mention to neither the font nor his author, whose typographic activity is not limited to designing Zootype.

This recurring amnesia could be attributed to that collective construction of a regional typographic memory still is in adolescence stage, a state of development that generally implies the illusion that everything starts from that fact, as Qin Shi Huangdi did. So by sticking the noses in the immediate, there is no perspective to ponder dispassionately what others may have done before, even if it was in the recent past ... because for the adolescents impetus that ”before“ does not exists.

The origin of species

Zootype is a long-cherished idea and a typographic design planned in advance that must await the advent of digital tools to become reality. Once finished the resulting font, which initially consisted of just a single type style, won a 2nd Prize, Category ”Fun“ in the 2nd International Digital Type Design Contest organized by Linotype, in March 1997. Jury comments:

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