Weekend Heller: Lithuania’s New National Font

100 years ago yesterday, on February 16, the small Baltic nation Lithuania restored its independence. The Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania created a modern state. My grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Vilnus, Lithuania. During the turmoil of ensuing wars and Soviet occupation, the Independence Act was lost—and was only recently found in German archives. Germany has lent the document for the centennial celebration; it will eventually retrieve it.

To somehow bring the Act back to Lithuanian people, a local design studio called FOLK has recreated the font used in the original Independence Restoration Act. The font is called Signato, and was developed by Eimantas Paskonis. It took him four months to create, redrawing every letter with precision, while also having to reference several additional written works by Jurgis Šaulys, who wrote the text of the Independence Restoration Act, to reproduce the missing letters.

The main challenge was conveying the overall appearance of the handwriting, as the referenced document writing is quite disruptive, and some letters are written and merged in several ways. Creating several variations for both letters and numbers, a total of 450 symbols were created, so that the computer can simulate it as if a typeface were written by a person. Signato uses Latin, German and Lithuanian alphabet.

As part of the celebration, Lithuanians around the world will be asked to sign the online version of the reinstated Independence Act using Signato. They will be co-signatories of the Act, which in a virtual sense brings it back to Lithuania. The country’s Prime Minister will use the font for the entire year.

Anyone can download the font onto their computer, but it is not intended for any commercial use. Instead it wants to empower a nation that is turning another page in its history.

After the signatures of the Lithuanian Independence Act, co-signers will be collected (the deadline is on March 11—the day Lithuania’s Independence from Soviet Union was proclaimed in 1990), and a robot will write a book in Signato that will compile the modern reaffirmation of the Restored Act of Independence. 


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