When Norwegian fine dining restaurant Maaemo was awarded two stars in the 2012 Michelin Guide, it became the first Nordic restaurant to be presented the honour concurrently with its first mention. Located in the Schweigaardsgate neighbourhood of Oslo (Norway) and operated by head chef Esben Holboe Bang, the restaurant underwent a visual overhaul in 2014 as its renown grew (indeed, just two years later, it would be awarded its third Michelin star).
In tandem with and as part of its new graphic identity, Colophon was commissioned by Maaemo and Bielke & Yang to create a three-weight bespoke type family on behalf of the restaurant. Collaborating closely with the Oslo-based design studio, we began work on an organic, grotesque sans serif typeface that would embrace the elegantly primitive approach to the cuisine itself (wild, organic, and biodynamic ingredients only) while also emulating the very contemporary nature of the restaurant’s process.
Maaemo — literally ‘Mother Earth’ in old Norse — embraces the bare essentials and unlikely combinations of Norway’s terroir. Using the simple metaphor of the culinary pairing and typographic ligature, we started by sketching special letter pairs and other features that could be used to introduce texture and subtle peculiarity to the type. This began initially with Maaemo’s ‘AA’ ligature and was then carried over into other character twinnings, subtle incisions in the Light cut of the typeface, and the handling of Scandinavian diacritics.
By employing the lightest weight of the type as a display face (as opposed to a traditionally Bold weight), the nature of the typography remains light and open — stripped back to its unembellished essentials but with enough gesture to connect it back to its organic and decidedly human origin.
Upon its completion, the type was put to use simply and beautifully by Bielke & Yang across Maaemo’s menus, stationery, invitations, promotional materials, and digital platforms, further elevating the philosophy of the restaurant through the design infrastructures that surround and support it.