Four years ago, in a conference room filled with type enthusiasts, three representatives of the Cherokee Nation explained why the world still needs more fonts.
Of their 316,000 members (the largest tribal nation in the USA), only 22,000 native Cherokee speakers remain, and only a handful of Cherokee fonts exist, most of poor quality. Users have no way to make a headline bold or to italicize words for emphasis. Traditional Cherokee type designs are intricate and of high contrast, poorly suited for reading on screen. New, multifunctional Cherokee fonts are an essential tool for education, communication, and the survival of the Cherokee language.
That is why I salute Mark Jamra. He stepped up.
His Phoreus Cherokee typeface is the first complete Cherokee / Latin typeface family, with multiple weights and styles. Phoreus’ informal, low-contrast design is modern, inviting, and, most importantly, optimized for on-screen use. Jamra has created the very first Cherokee typographic italic by integrating cursive forms found in manuscripts. Phoerus’ matching Latin harmoniously integrates for use within texts, and an innovative “small cap” Cherokee was created to match text density when the scripts are used in parallel.
Jamra knew that a Cherokee font would never be on an “all-time bestsellers” list, or bring him celebrity through ubiquitous use; he was motivated by compassion. He has chosen to give the Cherokee people a communication tool at the level of quality that we 4.9 billion Latin script users take for granted. For that, he has my utmost respect.
Erin McLaughlin is an independent typeface designer who specializes in South Asian writing systems. She worked previously as a type designer at Hoefler & Frere-Jones, and received an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading (UK).