New monumental Typotheque type specimen, a world poem in 162 languages

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World Poem Type Specimen

Back in the days when in-person meetings were the norm, we asked Susana Carvalho and Kai Bernau from ACB to meet with us to discuss ideas for a new type specimen. We have worked together before on Works That Work magazine, and admired their engagement with content, skills, precision and dedication to production values. Designing a specimen for a library of over a thousand fonts is a complex task, and we shared the view that printing a type specimen today has to do more than show faux text in all font styles. We wanted to explore ways to present the world languages with which Typotheque works in a respectful way, focusing as much on the meaning as on form. Susana and Kai proposed commissioning a poem from an author that would address global issues but that also would be highly personal and full of hope. We chose to work with Tishani Doshi, a well-respected poet, dancer and writer from Tamil Nadu, and Tishani embraced the given constraints and wrote the poem to an exact word count — one word for each page — an impressive feat, considering how naturally the poem reads. Our linguist friends Benjamin Yang and David Kamholz defined and sorted the languages based on the number of native speakers, and Susana and Kai then devised a community-based system for the translation process, translating each word of the poem into hundreds of different languages. You all made it happen, and the specimen is truly a collective project, involving hundreds of people worldwide. Selected as one of the Best Dutch Book Designs 2021, and awarded the Certificate of Typographic Excellence from TDC, Type Directors Club in New York.

This book is a celebration of cultural diversity, as well as a presentation of the typefaces, both current and upcoming, that Typotheque offers. Each writing script comes with a full-page introduction about its origins, researched and written by the writer Karthik Malli from Bangalore, who specialises in history and languages. The specimen is interwoven with six essays, previously published as well as new ones, that discuss various aspects of typography. Instead of working manually, ACB spent most of the time defining an extensive database containing definitions of all 2,928 fonts, 560 pages, 28 ink permutations, 162 languages, and all the words and translations. Ariel Walden, an automation specialist, wrote software that transformed the 14,560 data points defined in the database into an InDesign document.

The book is available for sale on our website for €18. If you work at an educational institution, drop us a message; we offer the books in bulk with our 80% educational discount. This discount is not available for single copies only for 10 and more copies of the book.

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