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From Print to Digital Fonts: Developments and Discontinuities in the Design of Indonesian Scripts

The historic writing traditions of Indonesia are characterized by scriptural plurality in which several distinct scripts saw overlapping use across various places, periods, and people. Today, the common use of traditional scripts has been supplanted by the Latin alphabet. Many revitalization efforts have faced difficulties in promoting the relevance of traditional scripts to contemporary society. One issue that, so far, has been little discussed is the matter of script design. The complex interaction between indigenous scribes and European typographers created an environment where traditional scripts could be rendered in many forms and contexts. However, the relatively sudden suspension of their common use in the mid-twentieth century made most primary sources inaccessible to ordinary citizens.

Many subsequent representations containing haphazard or artificial letterforms, never found in authentic usage, were repeated and perpetuated as static traditional forms. Faulty typographic representation, in turn, deterred a younger generation of users who saw no applicability in their unattractive and limited visuals. Recently, there has been a growing awareness of design issues among communities of enthusiasts; however, there are still many incidental projects with problematic design tropes that further perpetuate the unfounded notion that traditional scripts have no design.


Aditya Bayu Perdana

Aditya Bayu Perdana obtained his bachelor’s degree in architecture (S. Ars.) from Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung, Indonesia, in 2019. Bayu is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the post-graduate architecture program of the Universitas Indonesia in Depok, with an emphasis on the history, theory, and critique of architecture. He is also an independent researcher, designer, and educator specializing in traditional Indonesian scripts typography. Bayu has worked as a font consultant for Google and Monotype, designed fonts for various user communities, and periodically gives workshops to promote the use and design of Indonesian traditional scripts.