Respira for Grave New World


Cemeteries are a rich repository of engraved type specimens, making them a special place for type designers. New York City is abundant with beautiful cemeteries across all five boroughs, and members of our New York team have spent many an afternoon perusing the gravestones. During the warmer months, the hilly Greenwood Cemetery in the Greenwood Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn is a particularly good place for contemplative walks, birding, and even unconventional dates. It seems only natural, then, that NYC-based designer RavenMo recently debuted Grave New World, "a self-guided cemetery experience that sheds light on the neglected serendipity of cemeteries, which includes a cemetery passport, a field note, a cemetery guide, and a birding checklist."


"Cemeteries are sacred places for unique genealogical, historical, religious, cultural, and medical information [about the] people who lived in our community," says Raven. "They are also free public museums filled with ornate grave markers and other memorials and critical habitats for wildlife."


Sharp Type's contemporary blackletter Respira is an apt choice for this project. The clean design and minimal strokes make for a blackletter that is surprisingly free of noise, harking back to the style's original text settings even though it works best as a display face. The design of Respira is also influenced by deterioration, which makes its application in a grave yard kit all the more fitting. When Lucas Sharp came across the aged Spanish manuscripts that served as the original inspiration, the letterforms appeared to have a stencil-like quality; only later, when he came across the same letterforms in an antique shop, did he realize that superfine hairlines existed. 

Engraved letterforms have served as primary influences for a number of our typefaces. Translating this materiality and texture and into digital forms becomes an act of osmosis that is challenging but makes for stronger letterforms in the end. Grave New World is a full circle moment for Respira. We couldn't be happier to see this typeface in the real world, serving as a guide to these sacred places from which we've drawn so much inspiration. 


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