Back Story: Laica is the result of a cruel methodology: namely, a forced collaboration between the broad nib and the pointed nib pen, two common but very different drawing tools.
“Laica reflects the heritage and influence of days and days of pointed-pen exercises under [Dutch typeface designer and educator] Erik van Blokland’s guidance,” D’Ellena says. He started sketching the typeface on a tram ride home from Rome’s Mondadori bookstore and digitized it during his time at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague’s type media graduate program in 2017. He continued to refine it during long hours under the Milanese sun, and finally released it through Dinamo this year.
The designer deliberately strove to create an awkward-looking alphabet—not a typical visual goal. Why? “I thought that ordered chaos could be an important medium for the eye and a strategy for legibility,” D’Ellena says. “The pattern and cadence were my first concern. A bit of awkwardness is meant to keep the eyes on the text, helped and surrounded by a recognizable design.”
Why’s it called Laica? Laica is an Italian word that translates to “secular” in English. Its etymology derives from the Greek lāikós, meaning “of the people.” D’Ellena hoped that the font’s name would relate to its intended use as a typeface with broad appeal, rather than one that would fascinate the group he calls “the type clergy.” (You know who you are!)
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Both Laica A and B feature jaunty upturned terminals on letters including the lower case “a” and upper case “R.” Laica A sports chiseled transitions intended to generate a pleasing visual rhythm and optical balance for text, while Laica B is meant for headlines, and has a more simplified, elegant tone thanks to the straight transitions at its joints.
Those chiseled transitions on Laica A are particularly alluring and mysterious. Asked to expand on the thinking behind them, D’Ellena says, “They are an important feature I added to contrast with the black of the stems, as a workhorse typeface needs to be well balanced in those areas. Otherwise I would have had to brutally reinforce the serifs to get the effect I wanted. This solution was designed together with Lucas de Groot during one of the guest critiques in school.”
What should I use it for? Any project calling for subtly offbeat, unexpected type choices.