Staples recently revamped its identity. The supporting typeface chosen to carry the tough task of displaying vast amounts of information, printed, digital, constructed and everything in between is Plau’s Motiva Sans. Motiva is used on everything at Staples, from website to office signage and The Loop, its product catalog. The complementary script is Rocket Clouds (Wacaksara co, 2018).
It feels pretty crazy to see the first typeface I’ve ever designed be used for such a household brand. Yet when I think of it, my thoughts when designing are a good match for the job.
My reference in type design during my early efforts were Neville Brody, Erik Spiekermann and Adrian Frutiger. Because of Frutiger the typeface, I wanted to design a family that I could use on a daily basis without getting tired, one that could set my personal view on sans serifs, which back then I considered the ultimate challenge (a little too early for that I should advise my younger self, but still). One that could solve multiple problems while keeping a friendly demeanor. Motiva’s lowercase a may be the most important point of personality, where the round bowl drops to the connection in a friendly way. When comparing to other more popular choices, such as Gotham or Proxima Nova, Motiva feels like it doesn’t take itself as serious (at least to my very biased pair of eyeballs). Even though it isn’t used in the identity, the italics are quirky – I decided I wanted true italics – a concept I didn’t quite grasp in the beginning. For that reason, there’s stuff in the italics that I wouldn’t do today – and I think that’s ok, it’s kind of a timestamp of an earlier time.
Since it was selected for brands as varied as Steam (the operating system, by Valve), a children’s hospital, and now Staples, it may have proved itself as a worthy effort!
Anyhow, Motiva is now almost 10 years old. Last year I partnered up with Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer (aka Mekka Blue) to improve Motiva on commission by Valve, extend its character set to Vietnamese, and hint it. I’m really glad we did it. If Motiva gives me as much joy out in the world as I had after releasing its very first version – only one weight and 5 bucks back in 2009 – ten solid years await.