Today, 16 February 2018, marks 100 years since Lithuania – now with a population of almost 3 million – broke away from the Russian Empire.
It remained an independent nation until 1940, when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. The country regained its freedom again in 1991 and ultimately joined the European Union in 2004.
Named Signato, Folk’s typeface is based on a handwritten document by politician Jurgis Saulys in 1918 that declared Lithuania’s independence as a modern state.
The original document – named the Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania – was lost during the second world war and the Soviet occupation, but was recently recovered from German archives.
“The significance of the Independence Act for the people of Lithuania is indescribable: our freedom, coded in each line, word, letter, or even its curvature encodes our freedom,” said Ignas Kozlov, creative director of Folk, which is based in Lithuania.
Over a six-month period, Folk worked alongside font designer Eimantas Paskonis to create the typeface, which is made up of a series of italic, calligraphic-style letters.
The process saw letters from Saulys’ handwriting be redrawn several times to create variations of both letters and numbers.
Additional written works by Saulys were also consulted to compensate for “missing letters” in the original document.
“The main challenge was conveying the overall appearance of the handwriting as the referenced document writing is quite disruptive, and some letters are written and merged in several ways,” said the designers.
A total of 450 individual symbols were made to achieve a handwritten effect, using a combination of the Latin, German and Lithuanian alphabets.
Signato is available to download on Font’s website – however, it is not intended for commercial use but rather to “empower a nation that is turning another page in its history”.
In conjunction with the font’s release, the agency invited Lithuanians around the world to sign an online version of the Reinstated Independence Act using Signato.
Afterwards, a robot will write a book in Signato that will include a modern reaffirmation of the act. The country’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has also chosen to adopt the typeface for the entire year.
“We wanted to pull the independence out of the glass-protected display and pass it on to people so that they can use it, share it and create a future story,” said Kozlov.
“Freedom is not a document, freedom is an opportunity to express and share your thoughts with others around the world,” he explained.
Folk’s typeface comes months after graphic designer Vladan Pavlović’s created a new visual identity for Serbia, that presents the Balkan country as one of “peace, democracy and tolerance”.
Stockholm studio Snask completed a similar undertaking for North Korea, giving it a heart motif designed to create a “common feeling of belonging”.