BackArts & Culture » Music & Art » From Vintage Album Covers to 'Bolero,' a Set of 6 Typefaces for Nostalgic Souls

From Vintage Album Covers to 'Bolero,' a Set of 6 Typefaces for Nostalgic Souls

If you’ve paid attention to shop signs and brand visuals across Vietnam’s cybersphere, you’ve probably come across one of Nguyễn Thế Mạnh's typefaces.

Mạnh is the creative mind behind Classique Saigon, a vintage set of fonts whose retro plumpness and modernist feel have dominated local coffee and bánh mì stands ever since its birth back in 2016. Since then, the graphic designer from Hanoi has released a number of typeface projects taking inspiration from local culture, such as Cotdien or Aodai.

Most recently, Mạnh unveiled his most ambitious collection of typefaces to date, Bolero, a set of six vintage font families that came to life right from the album covers and music sheets of past decades.

Bolero is perhaps Vietnam’s most favorite genre of music; its sentimental lyrics and easy-to-remember melodies have spawned a catholic library of songs with mass appeal. The designer was particularly fascinated with the genre’s covers, which were all hand-painted by artists like Duy Liêm, Kha Thùy Châu, and recently Lâm Nguyễn Kha Liêm.

The six typefaces are: Physica, Anarchia, Reducta, Epika, Rustra, and Selectra. “All of these six have customized Vietnamese diacritics that mimics the way they're originally drawn (small, thin, heavily emphasized in an unsual [sic] way that helps them stand out) and is specifically handcrafted for designs that need a retro, organic touch and scream Vietnamese like song titles and CD covers, digital posters and likewise,” Mạnh explains the design intention behind the project.

While each of the six is its own design, they all share some stylistic attributes common to the eras when the original covers were created, like flat, horizontal diacritics, bold brushstrokes, and blocky silhouettes.

Physica features perfect circles and neat sans serif graphemes, seeking to recreate “the craft of drawing and cutting letter with compasses and rulers.”

Rustra is the most “chaotic” of the six, as it aims to emulate the retro hand-writing on the famous music sheet of ‘Nỗi buồn hoa phượng,’ as seen in its 1966 release.

Anarchia, on the other hand, has solid spaces and sharp tips, evoking a funky feeling.

Selectra is a unicase sans serif family with empty counters for uppercase and filled counters for lowercase, recreating the signature motif occasionally used for hand-drawn song titles and covers.

Reducta is the most irregularly geometrical family, featuring quadrilateral strokes and asymmetrical graphemes, even for letters like A and V.

Epika has thin lines and slightly flared ends that, according to Mạnh, borrow from “the brushstrokes of letters drawn with technical pens.”

Related Articles

in Music & Arts

Vintage Music Compilation 'Saigon Supersound' Releases 3rd and Final Volume

Since Saigon Supersound presented its first volume back in 2017, the anthology of vintage Vietnamese music has become a household name for fans, both in and out of Vietnam, with a penchant for tunes f...

Khoi Pham

in Music & Arts

With Debut Album 'Họa Âm Xưa,' Saigon Soul Revival Brings Back Old-School Cool

From covers of old songs from the 1960s and 70s, Saigon Soul Revival now presents their own original music in an exciting debut album, a continuation both in spirit and execution of the silvery vein o...

Khoi Pham

in Music & Arts

In Saigon Supersound Vol. 2, an Unabashed Celebration of Saigon's Retro Tunes

In less than a year and a half between the releases of the first and second volumes of Saigon Supersound, the highly celebrated compilation’s unique sound hasn’t changed, but the city it celebrates ha...

Khoi Pham

in Arts & Culture

Retro Typeface 'Cotdien' Is an Homage to Vietnam's Old Hand-Drawn Signage

Vietnam’s sense of aesthetics is going through a retro revolution: from niche cafes playing nhạc vàng and an upcoming feature-length film on áo dài artisans to retrofitted album covers of to...

Khôi Phạm

in Music & Arts

Saving the City's Soul: The Release of Saigon Supersound, Vol. 1

Despite being subject to a bombardment of ruthless changes, Saigon is surprisingly persistent in its love for all things old, rustic and gritty. For someone who was not born and bred in the bustling m...

in Music & Arts

The Tale of 2 Vietnamese Christmas Songs: 'Hai Mùa Noel' and 'Bài Thánh Ca Buồn'

When it comes to local Christmas music, any Vietnamese will hear the melodies of either ‘Bài Thánh ca buồn’ or ‘Hai mùa Noel’ a couple of times every holiday season. Though Christmas is not a native h...

Partner Content