Totem is a Tifinagh typeface that was commissioned by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM). Tifinagh is the traditional writing system of the Berber people, and is a lost script alphabet that is slowly being refined for computer use. The government of Morocco has recently adopted Tifinagh as the official alphabet for writing Berber languages, which until now did not have a writing system or were written in either the Arabic or Latin alphabets. To accommodate for this, new glyphs were added to the traditional Tifinagh script to denote vowels and sounds not found in the original alphabet.
I created the Totem typeface keeping in mind that the Tifinagh script can be read from both sides and top to bottom. Historically, it was usually carved on rocks with no discernable reading path, you would then take the path that made more sense, so the reading direction was dictated by the meaning of the written sentences. As a result, I made it so the typeface creates little decorative/typographic totems when written from top to bottom. The typeface is mostly meant for headings, although the readability would still be fine on small body texts.
I utilized old calligraphy brushes and a lot of spontaneity in the creation process. Despite not fully understanding the Tifinagh script, I put in many days of research and received assistance from the client whenever I needed help. I was assisted by the staff of the IRCAM who provided their insights on each letter I drew. After refinements, I chose the most optimal letters for computer usage and small blocks of texts and scanned them before going through the digitization process.
The final product, the Totem typeface, is available for download on the IRCAM website. It was a big challenge for me to create the typeface, but I am proud of the result and hope it can be of use for the preservation and promotion of the Tifinagh script and Berber culture.