New Leaves: The Cherokee Syllabary in the 21st Century
with Chris Skillern
Dive into the past, present, and tantalizing future of the Cherokee syllabary to investigate this 200-year-old writing system’s new life.
The year 2021 marked the bicentennial of the Cherokee syllabary, the writing system for the Cherokee language invented by Sequoyah. Today, it remains integral to the culture and identity of the Cherokee people and is, like the language itself, in the midst of concentrated revitalization efforts. Join type designer and Cherokee Nation citizen Chris Skillern on a walk through the history of the syllabary and its adaptation to new technologies. Then get a glimpse at what the future may hold for the syllabary.
Chris will share some personal work and talk about the difficulties of designing modern type families for a script with few models. See the exciting work that’s being done today to appeal to a new generation of language learners and to carry this remarkable invention into the future, and hear Chris’s personal story of an ongoing journey toward fluency, in both language and design.
Letterform Lectures are a public aspect of the Type West postgraduate program. The series is co-presented by the San Francisco Public Library, where events are free and open to all.
Chris Skillern is a type designer and citizen of the Cherokee Nation from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives with his wife and daughter. A 15-year-long obsession with drawing type led Chris to Type West, the Letterform Archive’s type design certificate program, in 2021, where he designed Meli, a type family consisting of three styles inspired by his daughter and intended for children’s books, with support for the Latin alphabet and the Cherokee syllabary. Since graduating from Type West, Chris has had the opportunity to work with such type foundries as A+ and XYZ Type on custom type projects for brands big and small. When he’s not assisting other designers, he is working toward launching his own foundry, Tulsey Type, which will feature his friendly, lively, and detailed designs for Latin and Cherokee. He is currently working with the Cherokee Nation Language Program and others on new fonts for the syllabary.