TDC presents Ezhishin: a first-of-its-kind virtual conference on Native North American Typography
Named after the Ojibwe word for “s/he leaves a mark”, Ezhishin was developed to facilitate a conversation around the typographic needs of First Nations/Native American communities whilst showcasing lettering projects and typographic styles by Native designers.
Co-curated by designer, researcher, and TDC’s managing director Ksenya Samarskaya & graphic designer, artist, and writer who specializes in working within Indigenous communities Neebinnaukzhik Southall (Chippewas of Rama First Nation), the virtual event that is taking place on November 11-12, 2022, with workshops on November 13 is the latest installment in the ongoing Type Drives Culture conference series.
“Our goal is to facilitate a conversation around the typographic needs of First Nations/Native American communities, while simultaneously showcasing lettering projects and typographic styles by Native designers” notes the team.
“In my mind, this conference is an example of what a positive partnership to uplift diverse communities looks like. The work of Native designers has frequently been left out of conversations in the mainstream and has not adequately been addressed in design history — we can take steps to change that” explains Southall about the conference that was initiated after a respectful relationship between herself and Samarskaya, who previously interviewed them for Typographica. The insightful feature was published in conjunction with Southall’s Letterform Archive article on the early-twentieth-century lettering of Angel DeCora.
Opting for inclusivity Samarskaya asked them to co-curate a conference focused on Native North American typography. “The word ezhishin serves as a poetic title for a conference focused on the mark-making of typographers, as well as the legacy we leave as designers” notes Southall.
One of the first conferences hosted by a major design organization to highlight the overlooked Native North American typography and its legacy, the three-day virtual fest will bring into the limelight prominent Native designers as well as non-Native designers working respectfully with Native communities.
There are few Native American type designers operating today, with much of the type used by Native practitioners designed by non-Natives. The Ezhishin conference looks to further a dialogue that both helps increase the number of Native partitioners who create their own type, and informs non-Native type designers about the unique cultural aspects and needs of Native North American community.
The conference includes presentations and panels featuring prominent Native designers, as well as non-Native designers working respectfully with Native communities.
Confirmed speakers to date include Joi T. Arcand (Muskeg Lake Cree), Sébastien Aubin (Opaskwayak Cree), Kevin Coochwytewa (Isleta Pueblo, Hopi), Sebastian Ebarb (Choctaw-Apache), Menaja Ganesh, Dr. Jessica Moore Harjo (Otoe-Missouria, Osage, Pawnee), John Hudson, Mark Jamra and Neil Patel, Kevin King, Noah Lee (Navajo), Victor Pascual (Navajo, Maya), Sadie Red Wing (Spirit Lake Dakota Nation), Christopher Sleboda, Kathleen Sleboda (Nlaka’pamux), Brian Skeet (Diné), Chris Skillern (Cherokee Nation), Bobby Joe Smith III (Lakota), Neebin Southall (Chippewas of Rama First Nation), Leo Vicenti (Jicarilla Apache), Monique Ortman (Cherokee Nation), Violet Duncan (Kehewin Cree Nation) and Whess Harman (Carrier Wit’at) with more to be announced.
Ezhishin’s distinctive logo, developed by type designer and Tulsey Type founder Chris Skillern, is inspired by Cherokee beadwork. With a mind towards Native cultural revitalization and self-determination, Skillern echoed the organic, curvilinear shapes found in Cherokee beadwork to create this custom font lettering in three weights axis, which can also be layered. The font is brought to life on the website via coding provided by Eric Jacobsen.
Echoing the “bright colors of beadwork, powwow regalia, and ribbon skirts” the Ezhishin branding is collaboratively designed by Samarskaya and Southall and is set in Robinson, a contemporary sans designed by Greg Gazdowicz, generously donated to TDC by Commercial Type Foundry.
TDC, part of The One Club for Creativity, will also offer a Type Drives Culture Slack group where conference speakers and registered attendees can further their dialogue during and after the conference.
Register for this first-of-its-kind conference here.