African fonts

ponofob's picture

Hi,
i'm a journalist and i'm going to work in a french panafrican satyrical magazine. As i'm going to be involved in the editing, i'm wanting to give suggestions about typography. As it is now, it's poor, and hasn't any relation to Africa — times for text, and standart uninteresting fonts for titling.
So i'm interested about any fonts related to Africa all of you know. By this, i mean two things:
— fonts by african designers, or people with african roots, even without an "African look"
— fonts inspired by Africa, with somewhat of an Africa feeling. Here's the African look.

I have looked on google and not find much interesting things, and on here, which drove me to Building lettres but as for now, the site is empty.

Thanks for any help.

Si_Daniels's picture

This book is pretty good - http://www.markbattypublisher.com/servlet/book_view?number=9

Lists a number of African type designers. As I recall the Building Letters Issue 1 CD has a few fonts from African designers perhaps someone here will have have a pointer to somewhere you can still get the magazine.

ponofob's picture

This books looks indeed interesting, i read about that guy while searching on my topic, but it seems to be essencially about african alphabets, in non-latin writting, while i'm searching latin fonts.
I d'like to get the first issue of BLetters, but i wait for someone to tell me how.

Something else : i need text fonts, not only display one. That's important.

i think that using egyptian fonts might be an interesting thing; using something african by its classificvation. Algerians interest me less, as i think they don't fit well a newspaper.

Si_Daniels's picture

My copy of the book is in the Office, but I've got a feeling it goes beyond the historic scripts, but I may well be blurring Building Letters 1 and Afrikan Alphabets in my own mind.

Would your readers associate "Egyptian" and "Algerian" style types with Africa? Even if these styles had African origins they've been assimilated into everyday global use.

ponofob's picture

I don't think the readers would realise the links, but my idea is to gather elements of typographic design that rely on an african identity, even if it's not obvious. It's more about searching something true, and coherent, than to make it totally obvious. I'll be fine with using a serif type which doesn't look african at all but which was made by a designer from Africa.

Nick Shinn's picture

Building Letters, you could try contacting Jim Richardson, who organized it, and used to be a frequent Typophiler.

I designed the Worldwide typeface in 1999, for the Worldwoman project, which has mainly used it for AfricaWoman. http://www.africawoman.net
The face is also used by several South African papers, such as the Sowetan, and Sunday Times (both Jo'burg) and Weekend Post (Port Elizabeth).

So although it's a Century adaptation by someone who's never been to Africa, it has a bit of provenance.

Si_Daniels's picture

Wayback machine has some archived content from the BL site...

http://web.archive.org/web/20040208180402/http://buildingletters.org/

Si

John Hudson's picture

Will you need to be able handle text in African languages, or only in English or other European languages? If so, this may dictate what fonts will be useful, since many African languages use letters and diacritics that are not part of European character sets.

hrant's picture

> Egyptian

That style really says nothing about Egypt. And anyway
Egypt is arguably the least African country in Africa! :-/

I might instead look to the fauve, "naturalist" style of
type coming out of South America the past few years,
and Eastern Europe the past few decades.

--

But really, it will be quite hard to find a typeface that evokes Africa in both a subtle enough way to really work for text, and a strong enough way to actually matter. I have a feeling you need a custom font - second time tonight I'm recommending that! :-/

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Brode Vosloo is a South African type designer (Shoe repairs).

hrant's picture

And it seems he even has a Typophile membership!

Also: there's those I-Jusi guys (once featured in
Baseline, I think) - they might have ideas/leads.

hhp

ponofob's picture

You're right Hrant, but i don't know, the oldness, mecanical and rough feeling of Egyptiennes fits Africa in my view, better, anyway, than any other serif. The name is more a pretext than anything else. I'm looking Storm's Farao... And Peter Bruhn one.
The paper survive with difficulties, it hasn't any ads so there is no room for a custom type. Alas. That would be indeed the good idea.
Nick, that could have been nice, but if so many papers use it...
John, the language is french only.
About M. Vosloo, i saw some nice display types, but taht doesn't resolve my n° 1 problem: text. And a display sans usable for short text.
It is not easy...

hrant's picture

> the language is french only.

That gives me an idea. Maybe use a font that conveys what Africa used to be about: colonialism. Not anything to celebrate, certainly, but a central part of its reality nonetheless. So I might suggest a face typical of mid-to-late-19th-century France, like a Latine or an Elzevir: those styles can have a nice, bittersweet air of nostalgia for a time when imperialism was motivated by sort of a romantic chauvinism ("we need to force them become like us, for their own good") more than by the mere crass, brutal materialism of today.

See this:
http://typophile.com/node/7596

hhp

hrant's picture

Oh, and National Geographic recently had a really
good Africa issue: http://typophile.com/node/14848 _
It might give you a lot of ideas.

hhp

ponofob's picture

The colonial idea is quite nice, but as the paper is satyrical, badmouthing (intelligently) as much about African leaders as about ex-colonialists, so i'm not sure it would be the better idea.
The thing is complex : i don't want to use african clichee, with tribe symbols etc, but i still search something about African identity.

Jem's picture

You could try asking Chaz Maviyane-Davies at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.
http://maviyane.com/

or the Swikiri forums:
http://www.swikiri.com/

ponofob's picture

Thanks !
For the moment and the next issues, i have accepted the fact i will not be able to use, as i've still not found, "african" fonts, (for text i mean; the few display faces i have been able to see didn't really please me or didn't fit the whole thing) but if theses people can help me to find something interesting for the next months, that would be nice.

litherland's picture

if i remember right, brode vosloo was a founder of sacred nipple, which no longer seems to exist. the south african foundry focused specifically on so-called vernacular african design and typography; see Gross Akzident F*cked.

i also seem to remember seeing a post or two from him here, back in my lurking days.

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