Every summer at the annual Masticar food festival in Buenos Aires you’ll be greeted by colorful signs and billboards filled with bulging letters and sketchy illustrations detailing all kinds of gastronomic delights, everything from pepper shakers and pigs to snap peas, lemons, eggplant, and chillies. This bold identity, created by local typographers and calligraphers Yani Arabena and Guille Vizzari (a.k.a. Yani & Guille), feels friendly and handmade, almost like the kind of packaging you’d find on farmer market mustard and jam jars.
“Masticar wanted us to make sure that people knew that all the available products are made by hand with love and passion,” the young design team warmly tells me, excited to talk about this particular project as it brought together two of their favorite things, namely type design and illustration. “Because all the food is home-grown and handmade, we decided to make the typography by hand.” Their original brief was to hand-produce hundreds of posters and to paint 100 seven-meter-high billboards in just two months. “We thought, they’re crazy!” says Arabena. “We couldn’t have illustrated all of that!”
To create an identity that felt handmade, but wasn’t as time-consuming to produce, Arabena and Vizzari decided to create an illustrated typeface. They drew each letter on a piece of paper sans ruler, producing a deliberately bumpy alphabet that they then scanned into the computer. They also painted a variety of poster backgrounds that they then digitized and overlayed with the type. “Our hands were numb by the end of it,” Vizzari recalls.
The identity was first created in 2014, and the pair chose a black, white, and red aesthetic to evoke the chalky billboards you’d see in local Argentinian restaurants. This year, they’ve updated the colors to mirror seasonal produce, using a deep corn yellow and tomato red. They also painted a bright mural onsite, drawing out their chunky typeface by hand once more. “The mural was important so that throughout the fair there was a mixture of the handmade and the digital, and therefore the digital looked all the more authentic.” Vizzari says.
At the end of our interview, an email pings into my inbox from Arabena and Vizzari with my name spelled out in their Masticar typeface—it’s such a great surprise, almost like I’ve just been delivered a homemade card. This is the joy of their typography: it’s practical, meant to organize and explain, but it’s also charming, evocative, and unique.