The case of Tifinagh, type design to the rescue

05d353d272a261e9c22081b72d5d5c37?s=47 Juan Luis Blanco
December 12, 2015

The case of Tifinagh, type design to the rescue

Tifinagh is an ancient script which was broadly used in a vast area of North Africa to write the Amazigh languages. After a long period of displacement by foreign scripts (Arabic and Latin), the beginning of the XXI century has witnessed the normalisation and unification of the language, along with the renaissance and standardisation of its original script, especially in Morocco. However, neither the use of the Tamazigh languages nor the Tifinagh script are still normalised. Actually, they have been banned in many areas of North Africa, being Morocco an exception since 2011, when it became official.

The practice of typeface design in this peculiar context raises extremely interesting and uncommon questions, namely: Which are the criteria to define a unified and manageable character set from more than 20 dialects each one with diverse peculiarities and uses? How to translate the shapes of ancient carved letters into digital media? How to encourage the adoption of an unfamiliar writing system in a context of competition with the Arabic and the Latin script? Would the design of a cursive and more easily writable alphabet facilitate its use at schools? Would a bicameral script help readability in long texts? If so, is Tifinagh an uppercase or a lowercase alphabet? Which would be the right approach to devise a bicameral writing system from a monocameral script that has no calligraphic tradition?

These are the context and some of the questions that designers involved in the design of Tifinagh fonts in Morocco have faced in the last decade. They have led them to interesting explorations and singular results. The talk will show a glimpse of the history and development of the Tifinagh alphabet as the answers to these questions are analised. Whether the decisions taken by Tifinagh typeface designers will help survive and spread the script only time will tell.

05d353d272a261e9c22081b72d5d5c37?s=128

Juan Luis Blanco

December 12, 2015
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  1. Tifinagh typeface design to the rescue J.L. Blanco Face Forward

    Dublin 2015/12 ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ
  2. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Typeface Design can help fix and develop a script and subsequently the language and culture it is used for. How What are the challenges, values and knowledge that typeface designers may find in that process.
  3. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Amazigh Tamazight Tifinagh * ORIGIN from Arabic barbar, from Greek barbaros ‘foreigner’ (see barbarian) Berber * Berber language/s Berber script (people, culture, language...) (aka Lybico-Berber)
  4. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco
  5. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: British Library (Endangered Archives Programme)
  6. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: British Library (Endangered Archives Programme)
  7. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco (9th - 6th bc) 139 bc Source: Musée du Louvre. Image: Sophie A. de Beaune. Bilingual dedicatory to the Numidian king Massinissa (Dougga, Tunisia)
  8. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Morocco
  9. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Morocco Tamazight facts in Morocco
  10. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco ≈9,000,000 speakers • Tamazight facts in Morocco Morocco
  11. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco ≈9,000,000 speakers 3 main dialects: - Tachelhit (≈52%) - Tamazight (≈31%) - Tarifit (≈17%) • • Tamazight facts in Morocco
  12. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco ≈9,000,000 speakers 3 main dialects: - Tachelhit (≈52%) - Tamazight (≈31%) - Tarifit (≈17%) 2002, creation of the ircam • • • Tamazight facts in Morocco
  13. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco ≈9,000,000 speakers 3 main dialects: - Tachelhit (≈52%) - Tamazight (≈31%) - Tarifit (≈17%) 2002, creation of the ircam 2003, Tamazight taught in schools • • • • Tamazight facts in Morocco
  14. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco ≈9,000,000 speakers 3 main dialects: - Tachelhit (≈52%) - Tamazight (≈31%) - Tarifit (≈17%) 2002, creation of the ircam 2003, Tamazight taught in schools 2011, Tamazight official language • • • • • Tamazight facts in Morocco
  15. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco
  16. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco
  17. Shaping a writing system

  18. 1. Choosing a script Shaping a writing system

  19. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco (ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ) Taghazout
  20. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco
  21. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco
  22. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco توزاغات Taghazout Latin Tifinagh Arabic ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ
  23. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco توزاغات Taghazout + - Latin Tifinagh Arabic ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ
  24. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco توزاغات Taghazout Latin Tifinagh Arabic ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ Well-known Long tradition Easy to learn Foreign + -
  25. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco توزاغات Taghazout Latin Tifinagh Arabic ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ Foreign Foreign Well-known Long tradition Easy to learn Well-known Well-suited Easy to learn
  26. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco توزاغات Taghazout Latin Tifinagh Arabic ⵜⴰⵖⴰⵣⵓⵜ Well-known Well-suited Easy to learn Mostly unknown No tradition Harder to learn Foreign Foreign Native Well-known Long tradition Easy to learn
  27. 1. Choosing a script 2. Defining a character set Shaping

    a writing system
  28. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco E=Eastern, W=Western, Sahar=Saharan, H=Hoggar, Gh=Ghat, D=Adrar, Y=Ayer, W=Iwelmedan, T=Tanslemt, ar=Arabic transcription Prasse, Karl-G. Manuel de grammaire touaregue (tahagart). p. 153-154
  29. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Nabti, Amar. 2007. ‘Analyse d’une méthode d’apprentissage de l’alphabet tifinagh’. In Actes du colloque international, le libyco-berbère ou le tifinagh: de l’authenticité à l’usage pratique. E=Eastern, W=Western, Sahar=Saharan, H=Hoggar, Gh=Ghat, D=Adrar, Y=Ayer, W=Iwelmedan, T=Tanslemt, AB=Académie berbère’s Neotifinagh
  30. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Historic Simplicity Univocality Economy Palaeography Design Linguistics Selection criteria
  31. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Tifinagh Ircam Unicode basic alphabet (ircam-ceisic 2003) 33 basic characters: 22 additions for dialectal variants - 27 consonants - 2 semi-consonants - 4 vowels
  32. 1. Choosing a script 2. Defining a character set 3.

    Designing letterforms Shaping a writing system
  33. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco 1. Epigraphy 2. Manuscripts 3. Printing types 4. Other sources Looking for models
  34. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco 1. Epigraphy
  35. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco 2. Manuscripts
  36. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco 3. Printing types Le cabinet des poinçons de l’Imprimerie Nationale (3rd edition, 1963) Bertrand Loeulliet, 1858
  37. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco 4. Other sources Afus Deg Wfus, firs digital font designed by Afus Deg Wfus French association (1993)
  38. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco = authenticity
  39. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Tifinagh Ircam Unicode (Ircam 2003)
  40. 1. Choosing a script 2. Defining a character set 3.

    Designing letterforms 4. Using the alphabet Shaping a writing system
  41. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Publications
  42. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Schoolbooks / writing
  43. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Limited: Readable Writable - functionally - stylistically + - -
  44. 1. Choosing a script 2. Defining a character set 3.

    Designing letterforms 4. Using the alphabet 5. Making improvements Shaping a writing system s
  45. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Versatility: Readability Writability - functional - stylistic palette + + +
  46. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Versatility: functional enhancement Uniformity > Capitalization Agadir name of city agadir wall
  47. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco “L’alphabet proposé ne comporte pas de majuscule. Deus raisons fon- damentales expliquent ce choix : a- La non pertinence de la majuscule, en ce sens qu’une partie de ses fonctions peut être remplie par les signes de ponctuation. Pour les noms propres, le contexte est désambiguïsant. b- Les propositions faites jusqu’a présent jouent sur la taille du caractère : la majuscule est rendue par un caractère de dimen- sion plus grande que le symbole représentant la minuscule. Or ce procédé risque d’entraîner une confusion, notamment entre des signes à base d’une même figure géométrique : ⴰ (a) et ⵔ (r) par ex- emple. La proposition de nouveaux caractères correspondant aux lettres minuscules du système proposé pourrait le rendre com- plexe. Ainsi, dans une première étape, nous nous contentons d’un alphabet sans majuscule” Bouhjar, Aïcha. 2004. ‘Standarisation de l’amazighe’. In Le systeme graphique Tifinaghe- ircam. Rabat: ircam, pp. 44-61
  48. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Versatility: stylistic palette Tamalout Tamzwart Tassafout Standard Noufouss Standard Noufouss Standard Noufouss
  49. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Versatility: stylistic palette Tazdayt Teddus Tazirit Standard Noufouss Standard Noufouss Standard
  50. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Readability: lowercase development A a
  51. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Readability: lowercase development A ⵣ a ?
  52. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Readability: lowercase development Two approaches: 1. Theoretical, speculative and based on the evolution of letterforms in other bicameral scripts (Mohammed Lguensat for Ircam) 2. Practical, based on actual writing analysis (Lahbib Fouad, Brahim Boucheikha-Babel- fonts)
  53. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat Readability: lowercase development Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011
  54. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011 Readability: lowercase development Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  55. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011 Readability: lowercase development Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  56. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011 Readability: lowercase development Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  57. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011 Readability: lowercase development Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  58. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Readability: lowercase development Source: Aménagement graphique de tifinaghe. M. Lguensat, 2011 Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  59. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Adlis compared to Greek, Cyrillic and Latin texts set in Calibri. Uppercase letters are set in Tamalout. Source: the author. Calibri Adlis Adlis Calibri Calibri Readability: lowercase development Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  60. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Development of a writing model Theoretical approach: Mohammed Lguensat
  61. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Lahbib Fouad Development of a writing model
  62. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Lahbib Fouad Development of a writing model
  63. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Lahbib Fouad The acquisition of a second writing system, R. Sassoon, 1995. “The pupil as a teacher [...] The writer is the real expert.” Development of a writing model
  64. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Brahim Boucheikha-Babelfonts Readability: lowercase development
  65. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Brahim Boucheikha-Babelfonts Readability: lowercase development
  66. Face Forward. Dublin 2015/12. Tifinagh: typeface design to the rescue.

    J.L. Blanco Brahim Boucheikha-Babelfonts Readability: lowercase development
  67. juan@blancoletters.com http://www.blancoletters.com ⵜⴰⵏⵎⵎⵉⵔⵜ thank you