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A multi-script type system for Africa

With around 2000 languages, Africa has a tradition of diverse writing systems, some of which have been around for centuries. Others were invented in recent times and have either grown popular or slowly fallen out of use. And then of course there’s the Latin-based International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used with the African Reference Alphabet for hundreds of African languages. This presentation tells the story of how we came to design an innovative type family with respectful and accurate scripts. In detail, we’ll focus on the N’ko, Vai and Adlam complements. Our research involved not only visiting archives and establishing contacts with linguists, specialists and African language communities, we also received valuable information from the apps we created for promoting local commerce in Africa and the creation of indigenous content. Along the way, we’re not only learning how to drill deeper and find the best models for the glyph shapes, but we’re also learning the importance of writing systems as symbols of cultural identity.


Mark Jamra

Mark Jamra is a type designer who has designed and produced typefaces for over 30 years. He is the founder of TypeCulture, a digital type foundry and academic resource, and is a founding partner of JamraPatel, a studio focusing on type design for under-supported language communities. A professor at Maine College of Art for the past 23 years, Mark has taught graphic design, lettering, typography and type design at colleges and workshops in the U.S. and Germany. His typefaces have received recognition from the TDC and the Association Typographique Internationale. Mark has served on the ATypI board of directors.


Neil Patel

Neil Patel is a type designer and former semiconductor process engineer based in Portland, Maine. He is the founder of Tetradtype, an independent type foundry, and partner of JamraPatel, a studio focusing on multi-script type systems. Neil’s collaborative logotype designs with local studios has been featured in How Magazine and Comm Arts. He also has been known to dabble with programming, which he occasionally ties back into his design practice.