Process: Carta Nueva

About Carta Nueva

5 optical sizes, 5 total fonts

Carta writing to be continued

Carta Nueva is the digital re-imagination of a pointed-nib calligraphy model from 1851 in Barcelona, Spain. 170 years after the calligrapher’s penning and printing, we found the original manual at an antique fair in Madrid and handed over the project to type designer My-Lan Thuong. When she began designing Carta Nueva in 2019, we could not have anticipated just how far My-Lan would take these letterforms. Under her care and imagination, we knew the spirit of the letterforms would be treated thoughtfully and take on a new life of their own for the 21st century. Much like its designer, Carta Nueva is poised and lively, with an unbounded potential for growth and flourishment.

Carta Reference
Carta’s starting point: a 1851 manual, from Barcelona, found at an antique fair in Madrid.


Carta Nueva’s beauty shines in the rhythm and contrast of the strokes. While drawn digitally, Carta Nueva preserves the essence of the calligrapher’s choreography — adding pressure on downward strokes to establish a consistent beat, then becoming as light as air on the upward strokes to taper to a fine point. The hairlines almost disappear upon contact with the stems, requiring them to be drawn at a 4096 units per em scale to capture every intricacy. Around this orderly tempo, the nib winds, loops, and arabesques. This lively twirl is accentuated most in the ornamental drawings of the uppercase letters.

As with any typeface that is in conversation with history, there comes a point where the designer takes over to write her own finale. While the original manual included the standard alphabet, My-Lan envisioned the look of the remaining glyph set, including punctuation, symbols, mathematical signs, accented and special letters. My-Lan’s inventiveness shines through in her sketches and calligraphic prototypes which have always been an integral part of her process. While hand-sketching allows a quick exploration of shapes, the practice of calligraphy with a pointed-nib pen was important to understand the ductus, weight distribution, and bouma of the connected script.

Carta Sketches
My-Lan's research process involves a lot of sketching

Carta Nueva intends to reproduce the virtuosity and flow of cursive writing, which requires a robust set of contextual alternates. The typeface currently includes 1,698 glyphs, in contrast to ~600 glyphs found in a standard Latin typeface! Each lowercase has 4 to 6 alternates that are automatically activated depending on its position and neighboring letters. The shapes, instrokes, and outstrokes were structured to work together to give the typeface a look that feels naturally penned in every possible combination.

Carta contextual alternates
Contextual Alternates

Optical Sizes

Carta Nueva’s charm is emphasized by the high-contrast between the downstrokes and extreme thins on the upstrokes. At the same time, one of the challenges was preserving the airy quality of the razor-thin hairlines without them vanishing at smaller sizes. In order to let Carta Nueva shine in any scenario and medium from digital screens to printed paper, My-Lan drew variants that subtly add hairline stroke weight while maintaining the typeface’s sturdy, graceful posture. Carta Nueva’s five optical sizes are versatile and can make a grand gesture through a single word and headline, and also dedicate attention to delicate paragraphs of text.

Multi-directional Family

Beyond this first style, Carta Nueva will soon grow into a multi-directional family that will make heads turn. 

Although the standard for setting Latin is horizontal, My-Lan believes the Latin alphabet can just as successfully embrace verticality and directionality. This concept of multi-directional writing has been on her mind for several years now, and began while working on her diploma project at École Estienne in Paris. The project, fittingly titled Vertigo, puzzled her with how to adapt the Latin alphabet to vertical typesetting. 

During her research, My-Lan felt that instead of simply stacking letters or rotating them, finding the sweet spot in-between the two would offer a solution for words to look stable and legible when set vertically. Practicing calligraphy was key to finding the combination of variables to achieve this balance, and Carta Nueva’s Spencerian-style script proved to be best suited for this exploration.

Carta multi-directional Sketches
My-Lan Thuong's vertical point-nib calligraphy

The development of Carta Nueva’s directional styles is not only about perfecting a technical challenge, but also an opportunity for My-Lan to push boundaries and go beyond conventions in type design. Carta Nueva Upward, in particular, reflects both innovation and imagination in the genre of vertical typesetting by defying gravity with grace. 

Through a rigorous finessing of skewing, rotating, distorting, and optically correcting letterforms along horizontal and vertical baselines, Carta Nueva’s signature silhouette is maintained in all directions. These styles lead to possibilities where horizontal and vertical counterparts can be paired together, with text that climbs like vines and cascades like water.

Carta multi-directional sample
Carta Nueva coming multi-directional styles

Given the complexity of this design, Carta Nueva’s multidirectional expansion will be released in a second version. For now, we will leave you with a sneak preview of Carta Nueva Backward, Downward, and Upward.

Featured Fonts