Typeface to accompany Canada 150 logo

@Ray Larabie has designed Canada 150, a single, unified typeface that supports Canada’s two official languages, as well as the indigenous languages in use in Canada.

It’s a curious set-up, in which designers go through an application process to gain the use of the typeface and logo.




  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    They're using the same system they normally use for distributing logos and other branding assets. It's intended to be used by departments of government for the Canada 150 project.

    After Canada's 150th birthday (2017) I intend to release it as open source. There might be some revisions before then. The Latin portion of Canada 150 is based on a free typeface I made last year that nobody noticed called Mesmerize.

    Related articles of interest:



  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,846
    Was this a commission Ray?
  • I'd like to know more about your research. How does a designer in Nagoya research barely-documented Canadian minority languages? Did you have to fly back to Canada and take a trip? Or were you able to contact experts online?
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    Most of the languages were easy to research online. For the more difficult ones, research consisted of gathering webpages and documents in the language I was researching, dumping it all in a text editor and looking for characters I haven't already added.

    Figuring out if a language is extinct or not is tricky. You can find out if a language is endangered but nobody announces a language becoming extinct. There were a few cases where I could find mention of a language being endangered over a decade ago and almost no recent Google results. Most of the ones I presumed were extinct shared characters with current languages so it didn't affect the outcome of the font anyway. There were two languages that I'm pretty certain were extinct but only required one or two extra glyphs anyway. The languages outside of BC were pretty easy to figure out... they're well documented.
  • Is it this documented somewhere?
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    One main document that covers all of them? Not that I could find. I had to list which languages I needed to cover and track each one down. Some of the hardest ones are languages which use the A-Z alphabet. When a language uses accents, you can usually track down a pronunciation chart. When a language doesn't use accents, you have to track down sample documents and scan them by eye for unfamiliar characters.
    I wish there was a chart for type designers showing us which accents need to be included. For the Canadian syllabics, there's a handy Unicode chunk to follow. But the rest of the required glyphs are scattered all across the Unicode map.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,846
    The Canada 150 Federal Secretariat was looking for  typeface made by a Canadian that would harmonize with the new Canada 150 logo.

    So cheap, no respect for the design profession.

    First they crowd-sourced the logo as spec*, then they went looking for a free font to go with it!

    Fortunately they found Ray, prepared to go the extra mile.

    *That pissed off a lot of Canadian designers: https://www.gdc.net/article/2015/04/27/3166

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    The idea of irking the design profession was part of the attraction to this project, I must admit. They actually warned me that there might be some media backlash when this font was announced. I was hoping, really hoping that there would be, but I knew it wouldn't happen. They underestimated how little people care about fonts. I predicted that there would be one or two mentions of it in the Canadian press but I was wrong: it's been a week and there have been zero mentions in any Canadian publication so far. Fonts just aren't interesting to people who aren't on this forum. Cripes, they're barely interesting to people who are on this forum. I suppose I'll be bitching and moaning in 2042 about how they used robots to design the Canada 175 logo instead of letting humans do it for free.
  • I meant if you research is available anywhere.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    Ah, I see. No, I didn't think to keep track of it.
  • The idea of irking the design profession was part of the attraction to this project, I must admit.
    Do you mean the graphic design profession (the customers who keep you in business), or your fellow type designers, or both?

    And what is the appeal? I know there are people who get a kick out of riling other people, in and of itself. On the internet, they're called trolls. But given some relatively humanist things you've said in other threads, I am not inclined to just assume that's what's going on here.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    Specifically the backlash against the use of a student design. You don't have to like contests and crowdfunding but when designers complain about it in the press, to me, it's like a patisserie complaining about a bake sale down the street and how those people and their customers have no respect for the baking profession. Rice Krispie squares...it's an outrage. And then this? (face-palm emoji goes here)

    There are times when $150K paid to an agency is the solution and times when a contest is the solution. For Canada 150, an event which encourages participation, a contest is a sensible solution. The Canada 150 project involves a lot of volunteer work. Should everyone involved have to be paid?

    It's a birthday party logo: chill.

  • The organising committee focused on the idea of "a logo" instead of a coherent overall design philosophy. Amateurisation already happened when the committee decided that they should set the parameters of how the branding should operate, rather than giving a designer the scope to apply design to the entire project.

    So it's boiled down to a logo, and now they are looking for spec work to get the logo done.

    On the other hand, the reason we've got to this point is that they did hire a professional to do the branding job, and he got caught plagiarising another design. So, not entirely surprising they might turn to amateurs instead. I don't think I have any good words for anyone involved.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,846
    Well said. The Canada 150 logo is a knock-off (type designers might say revival) of Stuart Ash’s 1967 centennial design. If I was the student’s prof she would get an F for plagiarism. 
  • @Ray Laramie, I've been doing research into the aboriginal languages as well, specifically the coastal ones like those in BC that were probably giving you trouble :)

    You might find this site useful: http://www.languagegeek.com/alllangs/listoflangs.html. It has helped me figure out all the necessary glyphs for a number of languages. In the few images that I've spotted of your character set, it looks like you missed some. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    @Aaron Bell I found that site as I was finishing up but it helped me confirm what I'd added and I found an ordinal that I'd missed.

  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 277
    Ray, thanks for the background. Looking forward to the open source release. The more fonts that support these disappearing languages the better.
  • @Ray Larabie I wonder if you'd be willing to publish the glyph and character list :)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    Here you go. There will be updates based on feedback from first nations experts. There are some problems with Cree glyphs that I'm aware of.

    If you're in Canada and it's still January 12th you can hear me on CBC in Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Cape Breton, Victoria, Winnipeg, Kelowna, Charlottetown, Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Sudbury and Whitehorse.

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,347
    Here is a link to a document on supporting typography for First Nations languages in Canada that Ross prepared when he was developing Huronia. Note that this is a draft document that has not been finalised, and there are a few errors and omissions that were resolved in the release version of Huronia.

    Amerindian or Native Languages of Canada [PDF]

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    Thanks John; very interesting!
  • Awesome Ray! Thanks!! I wonder if you could also post a GlyphOrderAndAliasDB or Fontlab ENC text version somewhere, perhaps Github? :) 
  • Hey @Ray Larabie is there a link to listen to that CBC interview online anywhere? Even though I often listen to CBC, I missed it.
  • Hey @Ray Larabie is there a link to listen to that CBC interview online anywhere? Even though I often listen to CBC, I missed it.
    This link might work:
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 925
    edited January 2016
    “There’s a lot of controversy around the glottal stop.” I love hearing that on national radio.
  • CBC did a follow-on discussion today with me and Dave Crossland, more broadly about type design and the increasing interest in fonts today.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    post a GlyphOrderAndAliasDB

    I'm not 100% confident about the glyph set. I want to wait until it proliferates through first nations departments to get more feedback.

    I'm not 100% confident about the glyph set. I want to wait until it proliferates through first nations departments to get more feedback. I'm really having a good time with this; imagining people driving home from work and thinking about fonts and glottal stops. I did a video interview with Global news which should be on their site soon. I'm not sure if it'll be on TV. But it's not really about the design, more about the controversy.

    Don't miss the Gizmodo article, the comments are a laff riot.
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