It’s no secret that the Philippines is among the most biodiverse countries in the world, housing around five percent of the world’s flora. Out of the over 9,250 vascular plant species native to our country, one-third are classified as endemic, meaning they can only be found here.
This rich botanical life, unfortunately, is still a bit underappreciated. We mean, how many of us actually know the orchid species sanggumay and latigo? How about pasaw-na-hapay, which has medicinal properties? These native plants are among the flora that Ornate Ecology wants to put a spotlight on.
A project started by young Filipino illustrators Gianne Encarnacion and Inya De Vera, Ornate Ecology creatively reintroduces Philippine flora through an intricate typeface.
“We both were involved in our respective Philippine flora projects at that time, and lamented the fact that our biodiversity is so rich, yet much of it isn’t familiar to Filipinos. We wanted to reintroduce [our native] flora through everyday wearable items and pieces, and wanted to start small first,” says Encarnacion.
While their initial product ideas were shirts and scarves, De Vera said it “didn’t make as much sense” to make these because of the pandemic. Instead, the two decided to create a typeface that can be used both on physical and digital products.
“A big influence on this project was the Bodoni ornaments which are found on standard Microsoft Word. From that, we thought of creating an ornamental typeface based on the flora found in the Philippines,” she adds.
“With today’s technology and how democratic the digital arena is, the internet makes graphic design a powerful communication tool that anyone can use. Creating a typeface makes it available for use in digital programs most people own and use,” says De Vera.
Noting that a lot of people have been spending their time online now more than ever, Encarnacion says, “We decided that a typeface was the fastest way to disseminate information because of these conditions. It can be seen on a screen or printed on a sheet of paper.”
The typeface can be used to decorate Powerpoint presentations, documents, social media posts, borders for journaling and bullet points for notes. For the project’s educational aspect, Encarnacion adds that you can use it to identify and familiarize yourself with the flora.
The making of Ornate Ecology
Ornate Ecology was a project that started blossoming at the start of 2020. It took the two illustrators approximately a month to research, with them nursing hopes of launching the typeface in July. But due to the pandemic and their respective jobs, the project ended up being launched in November.
“After we decided to create an ornamental typeface, we created a list of at least 50 flowers found around the country. We sourced our research from websites like Co’s Digital Flora of the Philippines (CDFP) which is currently the best internet database we have for our native/indigenous and endemic plants, as well as a visual guide using photos collected from different botanists and scientists in the field,” says De Vera.
Their other references include the digital archive stuartxchange, plant and flower interest groups on Facebook, and official pages of the Forest Foundation, University of the Philippines and Ateneo Wild. The two illustrators are also planning to share information cards about the native plants that they featured in Ornate Ecology through the project’s Instagram account.
“The period of creating the glyphs was the most labor-intensive for me because I drew and inked over a hundred variants of different flowers by hand, but it was a really fun exercise to squeeze up all my creative juices,” says De Vera. “What we launched was actually just ¼ of what we made,” adds Encarnacion.
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Just like their goal of spreading more awareness about our native plants, the two said that their own research helped acquaint them with our local flora.
“I just learned that there are 944 endemic species of orchids in the Philippines. In this book, we have the waling waling, Queen Victoria’s dendrobium and ascoglossum,” says De Vera. “I wasn’t familiar with the kapa-kapa (Medenilla magnifica) and it was such a delight to be acquainted with it!” adds Encarnacion.
In line with recent calamities in the country, all proceeds of Ornate Ecology this year will be coursed to the organizations For Our Farmers, TindogBikol, Kaya Natin, Bangon Bangka, Kids for Kids and For the Future. As of Nov. 16, the pair has raised over P18,000.
You can download the floral typeface for P290 here.
Photos from Ornate Ecology, Gianne Encarnacion and Inya De Vera
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