Astro Design Story

Where do we come from? Where are we going?
―― The philosophy behind the neo-humanist san serif.

Spacewalking, 1984, NASA

Detail released “Astro”, a new sans serif typeface inspired by contemporary science and technology in November 2018. It began with a type designer Makoto Kamimura’s research about the transition of people’s view of humanity and how they were expressed in typefaces.


The basic typeface set we use today was established around the Renaissance period. At that time, the Humanism movement was happened because of people re-found the philosophy, literature, and cultures of classical Greece and Rome. And especially against the backdrop of early Italian humanism, lower case letters were formed.

Since then, based on its shape, various typefaces have been born with the changing times. Transitional, Didone, Slab Serif, Grotesk Sans Serif, Neo-Grotesk Sans Serif, Humanist Sans Serif, Geometric Sans Serif. Not all the typefaces have hard evidence but when you see the shapes of them, you can find the atmosphere of the times when those were made. Like clothing, there is fashion on the typeface as well. People’s aesthetic sense has changed according to the times. Sometimes it was due to the request from the public, sometimes a powerful person’s idea triggered the mode.

In typefaces, there are many cases where the thought of one designer is reflected strongly. Especially about sans serif as a modern new typeface, type designers have been trying with various ways in this century. We can read their ideas and beliefs from the shapes of those typefaces. In the process of thinking about the sans serif necessary for the future era, Kamimura reached the great works of some designers: Eric Gill, Jan Tschichold, and Adrian Frutiger. Their experiments to the sans serif were more than half a century ago, but it is still shining today. Among them, Kamimura focused on the challenge of Jan Tschichold. On young days Tschichold was tending to modern design and condemned all typefaces except for sans serif types. However, eventually, he criticized the behavior of himself and returned to a classicist theory. At the time when it could be said that he was in the process of change, he has made a typeface for the phototypesetting. The typeface has buried in the interval between the periods of technology changing, and now there is almost no opportunity to see it. However, by reading Tschichold’s story and his work, Kamimura was able to find a way of thinking that to fusion modern and classical and to harmonize conflicting things.

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We, humans, have believed geometry and use it in our daily life. However, it does not mean that all things have been made possible, and it is the fact that we still use methods that do not depend on geometry at the same time. Kamimura thought about balancing these different facts into one typeface concept. It was an attempt to blend the geometrical eyes that appear as a result of the man’s going forward and the fundamental eyes that human beings have.

Today, people are using sophisticated technologies as found in cutting-edge aviation science and biotechnology. These are almost magic to the people who were in the period of establishment of the alphabet. In consideration of them, Kamimura prepared a manifesto what kind of typeface should be made.

- To be continued to the future.
- Be on an extension line of history.
- To be for people.

Letters with characteristic shape.

Four different kinds of spaces.


Astro features smooth curves as seen in aviation equipment, cars, mobility terminals. Specifically, the letters with sharp cuts like K and t, the rounded shape letters with widely opened counters like O and c, and also, the letters adopted handwriting-based shapes such as b or g are characteristic. Also, Astro, the name of the typeface, was named not only to mean a star outside the earth, but also to the earth itself. We are now living an era of thinking things on a scale of stars beyond nation, race, sex. With the words of Buckminster Fuller, the earth is a spaceship and “we are all astronauts”.

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