Before back room printers and system fonts, a rich branch of everyday calligraphy existed at grocery stores and supermarkets. For decades lettering, done by amateur scribes like shop keepers themselves, was used daily to make price tags on shop shelves and window posters announcing sales. Besides of this practical communication, writing styles also worked as a signature for each store. It was easy marketing done by marker pens.

Left: Lettering by anonymous writer in late 70s (©K-kauppiasliitto). Right: Early lettering done for Walmer Marker typeface.

The lettering followed rules which constituted the style in common for all writers. In addition everyone brought their personal mannerisms into their lettering making it unique in every shop. Simplifying letterforms speeded up the process of writing. Arches were straightened into strokes connecting each other at angles. This left each letter’s components visible, a feature that was further enforced by typical misalignment of a letter’s parts. However, as with any handwriting, it took a vast amount of practice to master the technique fluently. Some did it well, while others relied more on their charismatic lettering style. At it’s best marker pen lettering was a combination of ambitious writing skills together with delightfully personal letter forms.

Price tags, early 80s (©K-kauppiasliitto).

Strokes were drawn typically from bottom to top with a pen at an angle opposite to classic calligraphy. Quickly drawn lines formed a kind of broken script where a corner often appeared between two curved lines. In continuous writing some of the connection points became pointy curves when drawn at pace. It meant less pen lifts and made lettering even faster just as it happened for Roman letterforms in the informal handwriting of the 15th century. This kind of italicization puts an attractive beat into marker pen lettering.

Top: Lettering samples from around 1960 by SOK advertising department. Bottom: Lettering guide by Tapani Puro, 1989.

Typically posters and price tags were written on glossy paper, which kept the color intense and left the ink fragrant for quite some time. The feel of materials and writing equipment were undeniable in the end results. It was like the story of its production had been written on the product itself. This is what we wanted to be visible on our Walmer Marker typeface too. Its tangible handmadeness is due to real hand lettering behind the forms. To get the correct mundane feel, Typolar teamed up with an experienced marker pen scribe, Jarno’s father, who ran a grocery store back in 70s and 80s. A result of the collaboration are for example the three iterations of each letter form, which constantly change throughout text*. Just as in handwriting no adjacent letterforms are identical.

Walmer Marker typeface by Typolar.

Walmer Marker is made for print and web use. We have meticulously optimized its vivid letterforms for screens and rendering technologies. While the World is filled with excellent sophisticated script typefaces, Walmer makes a fresh addition to them. It has an unmistakeable un-pretentious look, which simultaneously reflects the professional craftsmanship behind it as well as the casual attitude towards the substance.

*Walmer Marker Pro makes use of an OpenType feature ’Contextual alternates’. Note that support and handling of OpenType features is application specific.


Walmer Marker is designed by Jarno Lukkarila, Pertti Lukkarila and Emma Laiho in 2013-14