terra australis incognita

MA GMD Major Project // Apr–Dec18

Live website link for testing the font coming up soon!


Terra Australis Incognita creates a unique brand around Antarctica in an attempt to prolong and ensure the continent’s future. In 1961 the Antarctic Treaty was signed, prioritising scientific research and suspending all territorial claims, making it the only piece of land with no borders or ownership status. This project is an attempt to prolong and ensure the treaty’s future, that supports scientific research programs, highlighting global threats such as global warming and the ozone depletion.


Additionally, the Terra Australis variable font aims to provide a unique code of visual representation of the weather conditions for the workers and scientists living on earth’s southernmost edge. The font has three axes that influence the weight, width and slant of the letterforms, based on obtained information about weather at a given time: the date affects the weight of each character, the average outdoor temperature alters the width and the wind speed changes the slant. The modification of these values constitutes a discrete set of letters; thus, generating a distinctive typeface every day.

The Terra Australis Font
A variable font which will translate and visually represent the diverse living conditions into an adaptable typeface. The Terra Australis variable font has 3 axes which, based on the obtained information, influence the weight, width and slant. The date affects the weight and characters’ transformation, the average outdoor temperature alters the width and finally, the wind speed changes the slant. The modification of these values constitutes a discrete set of letters; thus, generating a distinctive typeface every day.

The font is based on NotoSans, an OpenSource font, intended to be visually harmonious across multiple languages, with compatible heights and stroke thicknesses. NotoSans is a font family comprising over a hundred individual fonts, which are together designed to cover all the scripts encoded in the Unicode standard. Terra Austraulis font is now developed for the Latin and Greek alphabets, however, the future intention is to create a model to transform all Noto scripts into variable fonts based on these 3 axes.

The Terra Australis Incognita website gives the user two options: Weather Forecast and Weather Database. Choosing the first options opens a page where the user can view today’s date, which is formed according to the weather conditions and can view the next seven days (this part of the website is not yet developed since it involves a lot of coding). Additionally, the user can type anything and move the sliders as he/she desires. Apart from being a playful addition, it should be used to compare the letters’ distortion and give a closer idea in terms of temperature values and wind speed.

Terra Australis Incognita Website Landing Page

The user can either go back by clicking on the logo on the header, press on the cyan arrows, or simply scroll down to access the Weather Database. Here one can pick a year and a month from the calendar (current valid values are January 2005 until December 2017, this span may be expanded by updating the database the website is reading) or can continuously press on the arrows to view all transitions between the specified months and years. All weather values are obtained by legit weather reports.

Weather Mobile Application

The Terra Australis Incognita application works similarly to the website. Once opened the main screen appears, the user can either view today’s weather and swipe right to view the next 7 days and can access the weather database by clicking on the menu icon. Apart from swiping through the months and years, here the user can swipe the location to view the weather on all Antarctica bases.

Posters Series

Unique instances of the typefaces are presented in this series of type posters. The type has been set according to the values obtained by the Weather Underground website, on the specified days, at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The photographs from NASA’s website show B-15A iceberg and follow it’s adventurous alterations. The date written on each poster is the date the photo was taken. On the back of the posters there is more info on B-15A and the posters work as a narrative, they are meant to be seen together and in the specified order. When the first 3 are arranged next to each other and the rest below them, the light blue lines create Antarctica’s shape, this also happens on the back of the posters.

Poster 7 Nov 2003
Poster 9 Nov 2004
Poster 13 Dec 2004
Poster 13 Jan 2005
Poster 4 Apr 2005
Poster 16 Nov 2011
Terra Australis Incognita Poster
Terra Australis Incognita Poster


The posters are folded and packed inside a sleeve which gives detailed info on the way the type is set. Based on the slider values of the font and the minimum and maximum weather values, a system was created to give a precise visual representation of the values.


The front of the sleeve states the sequence of the posters, together with the weather values. November 7, 2003 was a very warm day in McMurdo, therefore the typeface is set in its minimum weight and width. The average wind speed was only 5km/h thus, there is no slant, whereas April 4, 2005, was a cold, windy, winter day, which can be identified by the thickness, expansion, slant of the type.

 On the back side of the sleeve, is an analysis of the values of the axes the typeface is affected by. Months are broken down between their 5th and 15th day, 15th and 25th and then 25th and 5th of the following month. January is the warmest month in Antarctica and July is the coldest, hence they are appointed at the minimum and maximum width values, respectively. For those months, more accuracy is achieved by allocating a shorter day span on the values of the width axis (5th–12th, 12th–15th & 15th–18th, 18th–25th). Temp and Slant / Wind indicators are treated as linear sliders. The min / max temperature and wind values, that were collected from weather reports, are appointed on the min and max values of the sliders.

Terra Australis Incognita Sleeve
Terra Australis Incognita Sleeve

 Postcard Series

The 3 postcards work similar to the posters. On the back side, one can be informed about the story of iceberg A-23A, which within a 24-hour space, broke away from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf and shattered into multiple smaller pieces. The postcards are intended to be distributed massively in order to alert people about the rapid changes happening in Antarctica due to global warming.

Terra Australis Incognita Postcards
Terra Australis Incognita Postcards

Summer / Winter Flag
To understand the importance of having a flag, it is vital to understand the status of Antarctica in international law. This continent is a condominium and therefore governed by different sovereign powers who have agreed (as per the Antarctic Treaty System) to share and collectively utilize the area without any border demarcation that form national zones. The facilities and scientific bases are shared between nations, while putting up their national flags next to each other’s, encouraging unity. The flag proposal acts as an indication of the season, therefore there is a summer and a winter version; their difference being the depiction of Antarctica’s shape.

Antarctica’s everchanging and dramatic climate makes the land distinctive, inhospitable for human habitation, yet every year scientists return to study and continue their research. Some of the most substantial struggles they have to overcome, are related to the weather conditions. The Terra Australis variable font depicts the month, temperature and wind transformations and the branding strategies are formed to implement a new era for Antarctica and a create a more hospitable and homier environment for the few people who choose to live and work there.


The Antarctic Treaty has massively contained the type of human intervention allowed, however one more massive threat to consider is the rapidly growing tourism growing. During the Antarctic summer (from November to early February) cruise ships unload hundreds of people daily, a fact that led to discussions over a hotel and casino to be constructed. The succession of visitors and growing demands of tourism have spoiled some of the continent’s pristine nature and aesthetic excellence. The fear of exploitation is legit and needs to be confronted.


Antarctica can become the utopia of the world we know today and the Terra Australis Incognita identity manifests exactly this. Not governed by sovereign power, lacking borders or marked territories, it could act as a model of an independent, shared space devoted to peace and science. Dedicated to the common good, which is directly linked to ecological sustainability and respect for the invaluable, yet limited, resources available. Technological advancements can help us map the damage we inflict, eliminate human trace and ideally make up for the damage which we have already created. The colonization of other planets of our solar system is happening as we speak; new models of power need to be tested, specified and applied in order to avoid complete chaos to be spread extensively.

View The World Map of Conflict to see where this research started from


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Terra Australis Incognita Poster