Fonts with Native American flavour

jordanjustkidding's picture

Hi guys,

I'm currently redesigning a website for a shoe company who sell moccasins and Native American looking boots. I've been asked to design a new logo as well and finding it difficult to create something that is suitably clean and simple, yet with the subtle flavour of a native American style.

I was also using Gotham for all body and heading text (for it's American vernacular assosications) but just discovered Hoefler and Frere-Jones don't allow their fonts to be used via @font-face on websites (which is what I'd like to do).

So a couple of questions for you:

1) Does anyone know any fonts I could use as a starting point for the logo? I'm not looking for something over the top, or with too much character. I'd quite like to keep it simple and fresh, for a fashion brand, but with a touch flair and Native American style.

2) Does anyone know any fonts similar to Gotham? I'm particularly fond of the full bodied roundness of it.

Any help or directions you could point me in would be massively appreciated.

Cheers guys!


eliason's picture

For 2), you may want to check out Mark Simonson's Proxima Nova.

Si_Daniels's picture

You could use Gotham for the static (bitmap) logo, and find a complementary font for @font-face?

I think H&FJ are a WOFF “supporter” so you may be able to switch to Gotham for the web site later if they start licensing WOFF.

oldnick's picture

As long as we're talkin' cheesy, one should not forget...

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Why not have a custom headline face developed?

dezcom's picture

The problem with what people think might be a Native American Indian evoking typeface is that most are just the Hollywood movie impression of cowboys and Indians instead of what you may be looking for. The easiest way is to just draw the logo without referencing a typeface.

William Berkson's picture

I once passed through El Paso airport, which has signage all in heavy weights of Eagle, and somehow in that context it looked southwest, and American Indian.

The new Museum of the American Indian I think on its signage uses bold weights of mentor sans.

There are a lot of ways you could go ...

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Forgive me, I read your first post too quickly the first time around and thought you were looking for something to use alongside Gotham. I second Dez: draw the logo from scratch. An organic feel might be suitable.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Leather is a very natural link to both shoes and Native Americans (the Hollywood kind at least).

aluminum's picture

Gotham seems the opposite of 'Native American'. Gotham represents the white man's take-over of Manhattan Island.

IMHO, at least.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Check out this and this.

dezcom's picture

It should have a softer feel, have a naturalist sense about it, and accentuate the made by human hand with natural materials

aarhaus's picture

How about good old Kabel? Geometric, but with a lot of character and elegance. It lacks the sterility of other geometric sans serifs and, despite its name, has a more natural flavour.

Just make sure you don’t get the 1970s ITC version.

paul d hunt's picture

I wouldn't go too too clean with it. If I were given the brief as described, I might be tempted to use Tiptoe.

John Nolan's picture


joeclark's picture

So you want expert tips on ethnic stereotyping of first nations who never used alphabetic writing.

Queneau's picture

Magma by Sumner Stone might have the right kind of naturalness about it (it still is available under a normal licence until oct. 1st)

I agree with most of the above that you should avoid easy cliches and ethnic stereotyping. Try to sum up the qualities and feelings it should evoke and then try to create something from scratch.

Rob Sutton's picture

How about Nicholas Cochin all caps?

Nick Shinn's picture

...a shoe company who sell moccasins and Native American looking boots.

If this is cultural appropriation, then an ethnic stereotype font would be quite appropriate.
Something Arts and Crafts? -- that was an early 20th century movement when anti-industrialism in Western culture found common ground with pre-industrial ethnic handicrafts, incorporating such things as Navajo rugs in the Mission style.

If the business is owned by Native Americans, check their policy on preferred suppliers.

quadibloc's picture

In Edmonton, the buses carry advertisements for an employment training service offered to status and non-status persons of First Nations ancestry.

As there really is no satisfactory authentic typeface reflecting Native American culture, and Kabel didn't come to mind, and those Playbill-like faces that suggest cowboys and the old west were too stereotypical... they played it safe and used a typeface that suggested exotic cultures in a politically-correct way that was readily at hand.


dezcom's picture

Just draw the letters.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

If you follow the links I posted, they both show examples of lettering by Native Americans.

William Berkson's picture

Looking back at this thread ...I think Paul Hunt's idea of Tiptoe is excellent. It has a really strong, handmade quality to it, and a fresh look besides for "branding" purposes.

jordanjustkidding's picture

Wow. This is the first time I've checked the thread since posting my questions and I'm completely blown away by the amount of responses. Thanks so much for all your input guys, it's incredible.

I would like to respond to everyone individually but that seems a bit daunting, some of you pointed out some interesting things though:

eliason - Proxima Nova is perfect for the body font, and it's also a font used on Type Kit. Brilliant! That's that problem solved.

Kristian Sics - Aztlan looks great, I love the way they use it in the pdf. Although I think it's a bit too bold and overwhelming for what I'm going for.

dezcom and frode frank - I agree with both of you that a hand drawn face might be better, but for this particular brief my client is more interested in aligning the brand within the contemporary fashion market, and I've been explicitly told not to 'over do it' and to keep it as clean as I can but still reference the American element of it. The thing is - their website is full of photographs of moccasins and fringed suede boots, so the whole hand made and natural side of it is more than apparent. It seems like stating the obvious if I were to do a hand rendered logo, which is why I'm leaning towards using a typeface as it would sit more unobtrusively on the website, allowing the products to speak for themselves. Although I do agree the typeface should be soft and naturalistic. Thinking of a brand like Innocent Smoothies - the simplicity of the logo type gives room for the playfulness of the logo mark and other brand imagery. Which I think is the same kind of effect I'm trying to go for. Having said that... I might try a fairly restrained / controlled hand rendered type.

frode frank - Those links to the hand lettering are beautiful, especially this cursive one. Thanks for pointing those out man.

aarhaus - Kabel is very good contender, cheers for pointing that one out.

paul d hunt - tiptoe is also a good one. Although there's something about it I'm not so sure about, can't put my finger on what though.

Nick Shinn - You're absolutely right, although as said before, client is looking to align the brand in a high fashion context and over stereotyping could just lead to it looking like a cliche. I think my original post wasn't clear and I wasn't sure quite what to ask for, but this thread has definitely helped me to think about what to do with the logo. I know I'm looking for something simple and contemporary, but to have some humanistic elements to it - a subtle nod towards the natural and native side of the products.

aluminium - I agree with you, that was my first thought when I chose to use it. But the company I'm rebranding are a UK distributor for the original American brand. And for a UK audience, to have a body font like Gotham is enough (when put into context of the surrounding brand elements) to give a sense of where the products come from. Also the Moccasin, when originally brought to the consumer market in the early 20th century, was sold as a souvenir item. And it was your white middle class families on vacation that bought them - since then the moccasin has become a relaxed, casual, house ware shoe (in America especially or so I'm told), so the idea of referencing white America is now just as much apart of its history as its natural, native counterparts. For us Brits at least anyway.

I may come back when I've got some logo designs to show you guys.

Thanks so much for all your help, keep them coming if you think of more.

jordanjustkidding's picture

William Berkson - I'm loving Eagle by the way!

Sye's picture

Maybe too much but it might help with some possible direction.


dezcom's picture

It seems to be much too Inuit specific. Perhaps the style of moccasins they sell is more a Plains Indian?

skyoneder's picture

In reality there really isn't a specific 'Native American' (USA title, or preferred to be called First Nation/Aboriginal to the rest of the world) style font, if it is, typically its really cliche and straight cheezy. Anyways the main font used before, used to be Papryus till every designer in North America OVERUSED it on everything cultural/ethnic, and now its just not a good looking font anymore, it was nice if used in a small title like way, but its life span is now over.

So a similar version to Papryus I found was Fine Hand LET Plain:01 it kind of has a rustic look to it, with its fabric like edges, this would be good for a small title/headline, and nothing more than that.

But in most cases, I just prefer to use what I typically use for any other headline/title and body text, suitable for the main target audience (young, old, edgy, conservative, playful, grand, excitement etc.) and use the logo and design aesthetics to show the First Nation theme, as that is my design specialty, considering I am of First Nation's ancestry, from the Pacific Coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Good luck! & show us your finished logo after!

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