Courtesy Émilie Rigaud.

Name: Tongari Display
Designer: Émilie Rigaud
Foundry: A is for fonts
Release Date: September 2020

Back Story: Both Tongari Display and its companion Tongari Text are inspired by the razor-edged blades of samurai swords. The typeface comes in seven weights, from light to black, each standing in for one of the seven samurai of the legendary Akira Kurosawa film of the same name. In the film, a group of samurai unites to protect a village from marauding bandits. Each samurai has his own area of strength—the high-octane, impulsive, and comic actions of Kikuchiyo (played by Toshiro Mifune) stand in sharp contrast to the wise, patient leadership strategies of Kambei (Takashi Shimura), for example—but together they form a seamless team. Likewise, the delicate strokes of Tongari Display Light stand up to the assertive, shouty contours of the Black type without feeling less powerful by comparison.

Rigaud began designing the text face with medium-weight, high-contrast letterforms sporting very sharp endings, but found the characters too intense for good legibility over long passages of type. She decided to back-burner them for use in a display version later. “I refined the shapes of Tongari Display by hand over a long process,” she says. “I always do multiple sketches to craft the letters—print, redraw, scan it again—to give some small imperfections to a design and avoid the too-cold, perfect appearance that sometimes happens when using digital tools alone.”

Why’s it called Tongari Display? Tongari means “sharp-pointed” in Japanese.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Tongari Display’s finely honed letterform terminals are its most notable characteristic. The capital R and K directly mirror the shape of the blade of a Japanese samurai sword (katana). The display characters feature a strong stroke contrast, higher x-height, and even sharper terminals than their text-weight counterparts. Many of the more detailed letters, such as the g with its sinuous curves and open tail, also vary widely from the text version.

What should I use it for? Tongari Display is a perfect fit for magazine headlines and posters, as well as exhibition design. “It could be interesting to use it on projects relating to Japan—an exhibition about Japanese art, for example—as the Japanese inspiration that I had in mind during the design process is visible in the final shapes,” says Rigaud.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Of course Tongari Display works hand-in-hand with Tongari Text. For a stronger contrast, pair Tongari Display with a bold weight of a sans serif font, for example Naoko or Between.