If you’ve been to an optician to have your eyes checked or have read the Dominion Post, you’ll have come across the work of this year’s John Britten Award winner.
He is a man who, through a combination of his innate creative talents and early technical training, has enriched the world of lettering and design, with his contribution extending not just across this country, but around the world. A pioneer and legend in the world of typography, he has dedicated his life to his craft – perfecting it, and in turn, gaining worldwide recognition as a true master. He is, of course, the one and only Mr Joseph Churchward, arguably one of not only this country’s but the world’s leading typesetters and graphic designers.
Born in Samoa in 1932 (1933 according to his birth certificate – an inaccuracy that Joseph says can be put down to his grandparents registering his birth in the wrong year), Joseph moved to New Zealand at aged 13, later attending Wellington Technical College where he gained an Art Distinction award for his lettering – a passion that can be traced back to his childhood in Samoa, when he would draw letters in the sand.
After graduating from college, Joseph went on to work as a commercial artist, founding his own company in 1969 - Churchward International Typefaces - which became New Zealand’s largest typesetting firm. Not long after establishing his company, leading German type company Berthold Fototypes accepted some of his fonts for international distribution, and they were soon in use throughout the world.
His Wikipedia entry says he has created more than 582 original typefaces – each taking between 150 to 300 hours to complete and each done by hand – however, in February this year, Joseph finished his 604th typeface, which is reputed to be more than any other individual in the world.
The quality of his work is reflected in his international reputation, with his work seen on billboards, newspapers, and other printed media around the globe. In 2008, a special exhibition was set up for his art at the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa and a biography on his life and work was published earlier this year.
One of the DINZ Council members had this to say of Joseph: “When I first became aware of Mr Churchward’s accomplishments, it absolutely blew me away as he has achieved so much without any ego and without his name flashing in neon lights.”
His accomplishments are not only significant on a national scale, but place him highly on the global stage. He is a pioneer and I admire his continued dedication to the craft of design. He is a true inspiration.”