On August 26th, we presented our work on typefaces for African languages at TypeCon 2017 in Boston. The twenty-minute presentation covered our experiences in researching the scripts we’re including in a large pan-African type system, as well as connecting with experts and authorities in the language communities the typefaces will serve. TypeCon is the premier North American annual conference for type design, typography and the type industry.
We’ve just launched our most ambitious app to date. CalConversion is the first multiple-script calculator/unit converter designed specifically for Africa: calculations and conversions can be made with Latin, Arabic, N’ko or Adlam numerals.
This app can convert sums between all African currencies, U.S. Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars, Euros, Indian Rupee and Chinese Yuan. Currency rates are updated every 3 hours providing there is an active internet connection. The app also performs conversions for units of distance, area, volume and weight. The four script interfaces are easily accessed by swiping horizontally.
We’ve just launched our latest app: an Adlam calculator for the Fulani people of Africa. Adlam is the newest script in our African typeface system; it was created by Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry of Guinea in the 1980s for the Pulaar language throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. We contacted Abdoulaye and Ibrahima, and they’re kindly advising us on apps as well as the definitive forms of the Adlam alphabet.
Version 1.0 of the calculator is here: https://goo.gl/dqi6MJ
We’ve released a new version of our N’ko keyboard for Android. The update provides users with additional characters in the International Phonetic Alphabet and African Reference Alphabet to facilitate typing Manding in the Latin script. It also includes improvements in the swipe feature to toggle between input modes.
Our work on African scripts is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of How Magazine as part of an article looking at the non-Latin type design field. The article by Jason Tselentis takes a look at our design process and considerations behind developing typefaces and communication tools for the African market, as well as the efforts of other designers and higher education institutions working in the international type design field.
Maine Public Radio aired a nice report on Mark’s Phoreus Cherokee last night. An audio file of the original broadcast is included in the article. The report features Roy Boney, the manager of the Cherokee Nation’s Language Program, speaking Cherokee! The reporter, Fred Bever, also mentions the African scripts we’re working on here at JamraPatel.
Six months after creating a N’ko keyboard for the iPhone, we’ve just launched a new N’ko keyboard app for all mobile devices using the Android platform. The key layout is approved by our advisors in the Manding-speaking community, just as it was for our iPhone keyboard.
N’ko is the writing system used for the Manding language of West Africa, a language community of around 40 million people. The dialects of Manding are Bambara (Mali), Mandinka (The Gambia), Maninka (Guinea) and Djoula (Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso). The N’ko script has some similarities to Arabic in its right-to-left reading direction and its connected letters.
A special feature in this app is the ability to switch between the N’ko script and the Latin script with the swipe of a finger. You can see how this works here. The idea for this came out of input from users who wish to move quickly between N’ko and French (or English) in their communications. Long-press functions provide easy access to tone markers in N’ko and Latin diacritics. An update with a predictive dictionary is in development and will be published in the weeks ahead.
It was obvious to us that the other N’ko keyboards currently available for Android had been created quickly and carelessly. That’s why we took the time and effort to create a keyboard that is a particularly useful tool of communication and productivity. Whether it’s apps or fonts, we’ll do the research, create the strategies and get the consultation necessary to designing the best work that we can.
California-based TypeEd dedicated their Typography Dojo webcast on November 16th to JamraPatel and the typefaces we’re designing for African languages. We presented an expanded version of our TypeCon 2016 presentation and then had a great time taking questions from the other people attending the one-hour webcast.
You can see a recording of the webcast here at Crowdcast at your leisure. (Note: Unfortunately, the quality of the audio is rather poor. There must have been a bug in Crowdcast’s recording routine.)
We’ve launched an important new feature in our N’ko calculator app: the ability to toggle the entire app display between N’ko numerals and the Indo-Arabic numerals used with the Latin script. This new feature is intended to facilitate communication and business transactions between local business people and customers who may be unfamiliar with the N’ko script. The feature is activated with the touch of a button.
The idea for this feature came from a tour of China I made in 2004, where the only channel of communication I had with shopkeepers and sales personnel was a calculator — and there was always a calculator at hand wherever things were sold. It became quickly apparent that this was the most common tool of communication between Chinese shopkeepers and customers (like me) who didn’t speak their language. It actually worked very well.
So we asked ourselves: if the users of the N’ko Calculatrice wanted to quickly communicate prices to foreign customers and tourists without leaving the app, what would that look like? The answer became our latest update.
Within a month of launching our Android app N’ko Calculatrice, we’ve added standard memory functions mc, m+, m- and mr to our N’ko calculator. These have been placed at the top of the keypad and appear in the N’ko script. When the memory keys are tapped, the number held in memory appears in a gray box on the right side of the results display. This is an upgrade we’re really happy about, since it provides our users with all the standard, basic features of a desktop calculator. As usual, the app is also available on the French language Google Play Store.
We’ve published our second app; a calculator for Google’s Android platform. The app, called N’ko Calculatrice, uses the numerals of the N’ko-script typeface that we designed for the Manding language and dialects of West Africa. The N’ko numerals, like the letters of the script, read right-to-left.
Version 1.2 offers the basic functions for everyday arithmetic in study and business. New features, advanced functions and further upgrades are already in the planning stages. (It’s also here in French.)
JamraPatel LLC has launched its first mobile device app: a keyboard and communication utility for the iPhone and iPad which facilitates the use of N’ko, a West African script. Portland-based type designers Mark Jamra and Neil Patel created the app after researching and designing a N’ko typeface family consisting of ten fonts in varying weights. The app consists of a keyboard, a field for composing emails, messages and tweets, and a predictive dictionary that offers word options in real time.
N’ko is the writing system used for the Manding language of West Africa, a language community of around 40 million people. The dialects of the Manding language are Bambara (Mali), Mandinka (Gambia), Maninka (Guinea) and Dyula (Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso). The N’ko script has some similarities to Arabic in its right-to-left reading direction and its connected letters.
“Once we had connected with the leaders of the N’ko literacy movement in West Africa and finished the design of the N’ko typefaces, we noticed there was no keyboard for the N’ko script in Apple devices.” says Mark Jamra, whose recent foray into non-Latin type design was the typeface Phoreus Cherokee. “At about the same time, we learned that an app can act as a delivery system which will insert a proprietary keyboard into the iPhone or iPad when the app is downloaded. A keyboard which uses our fonts can facilitate communication, and mobile phones are the predominant method of telecommunication in these countries.”
Neil Patel was largely responsible for creating the app. “Our goal from the outset was to create something that provided a very typical iPhone experience where none had existed previously,” says Patel. “Our contacts in the language community are enthusiastic about bringing their digital communications to the next level and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
In case you missed it: Neil was interviewed by the Type Directors Club of New York last summer. The interview, which introduced Neil to the greater typographic community, was posted on their website and featured a look at our design of the Vai syllabary, one of the West African scripts we’re working on here at JamraPatel.
The Portland Press Herald (Maine) ran a great article about Mark Jamra and his Phoreus Cherokee typeface family. Titled It’s Not Just Another Pretty Typeface (oh, those clever and witty editors), it presents the story behind the design of the first typeface family with multiple weights and cursive italics for the Cherokee language.