Arts and Culture

This Typeface Puts Philippines

National Artists to the

Fore and More

by Jace Amodo, May 21, 2019 5:05pm

Art by Ahl Mirambel using the Imao Obra Typeface

Arts and Culture

This Typeface Puts Philippines National Artists to the Fore and More

by Jace Amodo, May 21, 2019 5:05pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel using the Imao Obra Typeface

When the Department of Tourism revived the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign, one imminent change we noticed was the typeface. The slogan uses the sans serif font "Barabara," a jeepney signage-inspired custom font created by a young art director named Michelle Co. Once again, the familiar tourism campaign earned attention from the Filipinos, particularly the Filipino netizens. Case in point: a typeface has the power to spark discussions and sensations.

On May 6, the Ayala Museum and ad agency J.Walter Thompson (JWT) Manila held an exhibit for the launch of Obra Typeface, letterforms inspired by and a homage to Philippine National Artists created by JWT. The fonts released under this typeface were Imao and Imao Title, a tribute to renowned Muslim artist Abdulmari Imao.

It's revolutionary to have a typeface to commemorate influential people. One of the most commonly used typeface, the old-style serif typeface Palatino, was created and named after Italian calligrapher Giovanni Battista Palatino. Another example is the serif font Bodoni, designed by Giambattista Bodoni. Revolutionary, because not many people (especially designers) nowadays would have known these people had a typeface attributed to them. The same can be true for Imao typefacehopefully, more local artists’ names will be immortalized this way.

Initiated by advertising agency JWT Manila and the Ayala Museum, the launch of Obra typeface boasts of hope that Filipinos may be familiar with the country's most influential masterpieces, aka obra maestras, and the Philippine National Artists behind them. Imao Obra, for one, recalls the sarimanok motif (a symbol of Maranao art), which Abdulmari Imao took huge inspiration from.

Because the typeface is free for public use (except for political uses and profanity), it can be used in apparel designs, posters, and many more. To display just that, Ayala Museum invited local brands and artists to marry their personal style with the typeface. Among them are Abre Linea, Aranaz, Artwork, Boyet Custodio, Drin Alejandro, Femi Cachola, Fine Time Studios, Geoff Estevez, Jappy Agoncillo, Joco Comendador, Kenneth Tan,, Renan Pacson, Support Your Friends, Wanderskye and Drea Dizon, Leeroy New, Ibarra Watches, and WSH.

Obra-inspired paint cans piece by Jappy Agoncillo. Photo by Shara Balce/Inside Manila

In the case of an illustrator, street artist, and muralist Jappy Agoncillo, individual letters from the Imao typeface are painted on his spray paint cans, treating each letter and making the instrument as artworks themselves. Jappy, in an interview with Inside Manila, says that each letter is a different illustration; and for it to become a typeface deserves recognition from the art community.

If the launch of Obra Typeface and the rising number of creatives is any indication, artistic and cultural footprint will soon be seen on everyday things such as shirts, bags, and more. We're seeing a generation that offers innovative ideas to the art industry, all while respective of our heritage.

With the JWT’s mission to bring Philippine National Artists to the fore, we can expect to see more from this typeface soon. The Imao Obra Typeface exhibition is free of admission and will be available for viewing until May 30. Download the Imao typeface at

The Ayala Museum is at Makati Avenue corner De la Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City, and is open Tuesdays−Sundays, from 9 am to 6 pm. For more information, visit or follow Ayala Museum on Facebook.


Is `This Typeface Puts Philippines National Artists to the Fore and More´ helpful?  Y  N