Typeface Review


Reviewed by Ksenya Samarskaya on March 11, 2014

Ross Mills, with the latest release of Huronia, is cornering the market on Amerindian type design. (The official typeface of the Nunavut government, Pigiarniq, was released by Mills in 2001.) One of the only modulated Inuktitut rend­itions I’ve come across, Huronia is a pleasure up close and a graceful plodder for setting long copy.

For this write-up, I’ve had to educate myself on the origin and use of Inuktitut. A recent system, Inuktitut was modified from the Cree and Ojibwe syllabic systems, which themselves only came into existence around 1840 by the missionary James Evans. The aboriginal North-American languages were almost always exclusively oral, and currently Inuktitut uses Latin (Canada) and Cyrillic (Siberia) interchangeably with Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics for their written communications.

Across the writing systems, the Huronia drawings are a beautiful post-individual-tool rendering: somewhere between brush strokes (the Inuktitut italics!) and paper cut-outs (the Latin Capitals!) with their mix of smoothly wavering curves and scissor-turning cor­ners. The sometimes cockeyed angles and decisions of the individual glyphs, when viewed at a macro scale, ex­plain themselves as they blend seamlessly in text — a warmer Dwiggins, not to overuse the reference.

When I first spotted Huronia, only Latin and Inuktitut were supported. Upon a revisit for penning this, I saw that Cherokee, additional Native American sup­port, and Greek are en route, thus soon covering all of North America and a small peninsula in the Mediterranean.

Ksenya Samarskaya is a creative practitioner working between the Iberian and North American coasts. Samarskaya & Partners is a creative practice with a collaboration model at heart, featuring a rotating team of kick-ass designers, developers, copywriters, and artists, who come together to craft logotypes, brand strategies, research, writing, and multilingual type design.


  1. Don E. says:

    Stunning! What a beautiful take on these glyphs!

  2. Trudy O says:

    I find it unconscionable that a font that is supposedly designed for the purpose of transcribing oral histories of Indigenous Peoples is not freely available for download by those who need it most –> Indigenous Peoples. I would use this font for many family projects related to transcribing our stories but I cannot even download it without having to pay for it. I was originally excited to find Huronia but now I feel exploited.

  3. Have you tried contacting the designer or foundry, Trudy?

  4. Rebecca Evans says:

    No one is being exploited. The Huronia family is both beautiful and fully comprehensive in multiple languages. The Regular face has more than 911 glyphs in 21 character sets. I know the type designer personally. He is incredibly knowledgeable, talented (obviously), and generous with his time. It is entirely reasonable that professional type designers monetize their efforts just as do those in other professions. I agree with Stephen that it’s always worth contacting the foundry.

  5. Jim E. Blevins says:

    In February 2020, Tiro Typeworks, announced a draft license to provide free access of their fonts to indigenous peoples of the Americas.

    In his post on behalf of Tiro Typeworks (co-founded by Ross Mills), John Hudson linked a GitHub page. Four years later, the page is no longer available, but it has been archived by the Internet Archive.

    I quote from it:

    Tiro Typeworks’ draft Indigenous Language font user license agreement.

    This is a new kind of license agreement that will be used for some of our fonts to make them available at no cost and no restrictions on numbers of installations, web views, etc. so long as they are used for indigenous language content.

    The goal of this license is to encourage language preservation and education, and to support quality typography in indigenous language publishing.” (new paragraphs added)

    I hope that charitable foundations consider supporting such projects.

  6. John Hudson says:

    I still like the concept of the ILLA, but the feedback from others made it clear that defining terms of use around the language of text is complicated, and produces too many uncertainties. Licensing needs to be clear and unambiguous, not least because I don’t want to spend a lot of time answering queries about specific use cases.

    We’re still committed to supporting indigenous language use and revival, though, and, instead of ILLA, we are getting ready to launch pay-what-you-want licensing for indigenous language products. At the moment, these are limited to our Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics and Cherokee fonts. Defining a useful indigenous language Latin subset is something we’re working on.

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