Rosetta Type Foundry's picture

Huronia – The one who tells stories

Huronia, designed by Ross Mills, is a text face with flavour, suitable for recording oral literature and for extended reading in books and academic texts. We are sure it would shine in woodcrafting magazines too.

Besides being a fully-equipped Latin font with expert features (small caps, various figure sets, superiors, fractions), Huronia takes up the challenge to support all native languages of Americas. Alongside Latin-based orthographies, it provides for the first time a level of typographic sophistication that gives Canadian syllabics equal footing with the Latin, with full attention paid to truly harmonising the bold and italic styles between scripts. It is of special linguistic significance in helping preserve the written languages of endangered native American cultures that are under-equipped in the digital age.

Currently, the Latin Pro and Inuktitut versions are available, and we will be releasing the polytonic Greek, extended Latin, Cherokee and more in due course.

For more information visit our site:

ferfolio_2's picture


Amazing work!!! Love the smcp. The native american symbols look awesome but I can judge their legibility because I'm not familiar with the language. Congratulations! :)

PS: Any good link to investigate about native american languages and alphabets?

John Nolan's picture

I've got the latin version, and will be adding the Inuktitut. Great stuff.

charles ellertson's picture

I see a publication date of March 2013. How does this differ from the Huronia I bought from Ross (through Tiro Typeworks) some time ago? (I have the "pro" version.)

@Fernando -- here is a link with a larger specimen & a PDF showing language support. But I don't know if this is the same Huronia as posted here. ..

Edit: The pdf can be a little hard to find, here's a direct link. Notice the character compliment differs for the "standard" & "pro" versions.

Rosetta Type Foundry's picture

I will point Ross here so he can clarify potential updates etc. We have a bit of a nomenclature mess with Huronia. His “Pro” (or Professional) is different from our “Latin Pro” and will be probably renamed. The first (Ross’ Pro) contains the full character set (incl. IPA, Greek, Can. syllabics, Cherokee, …), while the second (Rosetta’s Latin Pro) contains only Latin for European languages with all the typographic extras such as small caps, superiors, fractions etc.

So far we released only Latin and Inuktitut as these are available in all styles. We will release the rest as soon as the other styles (non-Regular) are finished.

Ross improved or had things improved in the European Latin part (e.g. ogoneks), and we produced the fonts again while subsetting them per script/language-region. The date on our web refers to release with us (2013), the PDF specimen (on our web too) states 2010–2013 which should be correct.

David Březina

John Nolan's picture

I too have the Tiro version.

charles ellertson's picture

Mr. Březina:

Thanks very much for the explanation. It makes sense.

Nick Shinn's picture

Interesting to see the influence of the broad-nibbed pen in the Inuktitut.

I recall designing a wordmark for an exhibition of Inuit art in the early 1990s, and I thought it would be cool to harmonize Latin and Inuktitut by giving both a chirographic treatment (to match the organic quality of the exhibits). I forget the Latin face I was using, it wasn’t extreme—Palatino perhaps—and no serifs on the Inuktitut). However, this idea was nixed by the client on the grounds that Inuktitut script was fundamentally geometric.
(A topsy-turvy version of the argument that Greek is essentially chirographic.)

Props to Ross for making it happen, and so nicely done.
This will open a lot of people’s eyes.

hrant's picture

{Please see my third post of April 9, 2013.}

Although I wouldn't call Inuktitut fundamentally geometric (at least not more than Latin could be) and Huronia does look enviably polished and tasteful, I also have to think that avoiding chirography can help scripts free of a chirographic background (of which sadly there are very few) leapfrog Latin into more promising territory; by the same token there is something vaguely backwards (so to me not "eye-opening") about making a chirographic Inuktitut font.

An Inuktitut extension to Fenland would be awesome.


Nick Shinn's picture

I don’t think people will be responding to the fonts in an abstract, critical manner, but seeing them in the context of documents. And the designers of such documents will have an expanded palette to work with, enabling a more sophisticated kind of layout—for instance contrasting this face with a bold sans face such as Ross Mills has already designed—Pigiarniq. That capability raises the Inuktitut script to a par with Latin.

Also, by stylistically harmonizing with a sophisticated Latin book face, more respect from the mainstream in formal kinds of bilingual documents.

This is what I mean by eye opening—enabling native users of aboriginal languages to have a broader typographic vision at their disposal, and presenting a richer impression of aboriginal culture to Southerners.

hrant's picture

Good points.

I just worry that it will cause Inuktitut to get stuck where Latin has become stuck.


Ross Mills's picture

Stuck? Latin is one of the least 'stuck' scripts I'm aware of. In any case, this verges on what in some circles might be called white people problems, or at best an academic discussion. In any case, if Inuktitut (syllabics) or Cree et al had 1/10,000th the variety available that Latin does, then I don't think there would be any complaints. As it stands, there is very little diversity, and the quality of typesetting and design has been very poor in general. Inuktitut does not have a huge number of users (both Latin-based and syllabic orthographies are used, so not all speakers use the latter), but has the benefit of being codified as the standard language of one Canadian territory, and fairly strong support in the communities who use it in Quebec. Cree has a comparatively large speaker base, but again many communities and areas opt to use a Latin orthography. There is little diversity in type for this and pretty much all other North American languages which don't use an orthography which happens to coincide with a European language.

So, the issue for me at least is not worrying about whether the writing system or stylistic variation is stuck, but rather that options are made available that allow for better quality publishing and design overall—this in itself will help promulgate variation, be it more staid text faces or more exploratory display faces. There is a contingent of mostly older individuals who do exhibit the attitude that Nick apparently encountered, in that their notion of what is acceptable harks back to the most prevalent publication of their youth, that being the bible, which was re-printed many times from the original 19th century version, and for many people for a long time was practically the only thing the saw in their own language. When new type was made, there was something of a lack of imagination, coupled with users' expectations that froze forms to more or less monolinear, plain forms (I don't think there have been too many fonts where the forms were strictly geometric, but they may appear that way). Needless to say, most, if not all earlier digital fonts were not made by type designers, or anyone with more then a passing knowledge of type design, but rather were made by individuals whose motivation was more the necessity of simply having these languages show up on a computer screen.

A couple of notes to clarify releases:
Any existing users with either the Standard or beta copies of the Tiro 'Pro' version will shortly receive updates from me that incorporate the changes made for this new release. Going forward, we will be making subset versions of the 'Pro' version along the lines of the Inuktitut-only font, so that users who only require support for a single language or small group of languages will have access to the font without being made to purchase the whole monster Pro version. Needless to say, there seem to be very few people who require the whole fonts, which support all languages of the Americas (along with most European languages, of course). We'll try and sort out nomenclature—Rosetta has a larger user base and has established their own general guidelines and naming scheme. Tiro's 'Standard' edition is more like others 'Pro' versions, but in this case there are not many licensees of the Tiro version of Huronia, so I don't think there should be much confusion for the existing user base.

The subsetted fonts will be targeted to specific orthographies or groups of orthographies (eg. Salishian may be grouped into a single font) and will be made available at a reasonable cost, generally in the $10–$15 range. I don't have an exact list of what these fonts will be in addition to Inuktitut, Cherokee and Cree, as its a bit of a complicated subject in some cases.

charles ellertson's picture

So, Tiro will continue? For me, that's good news. I never know when a customer (I set type) will need a language supported, and often, neither do they, even with the manuscript in hand.

Here's how it works after all the theorizing is done: An author "does something." Maybe a hacked together characters (syntactically inaccurate), or a code (\whatIwant), or something hand-drawn. The editor passes on the need, usually not expressed as a Unicode character. If I'm lucky, or the designer outright, I get a say in the typeface selection.

BTW, first proof is usually due in three weeks. There are 20+ pieces of bad art to impove. There is the whole book to set, and probably several characters needed that were not mentioned, which we discover along the way.

If there is a font available like Huronia, I'll buy it. As I have...

hrant's picture

Peoples are different. And there's no separating sociopolitical reality from good typographic decisions. Armenians are white, but we expect/need different things from our alphabet compared to Canadians for example. This sort of thing is hard to explain to people in power; you have to be threatened to feel it - you have to have kids who need convincing that learning their alphabet/language is important. There's nothing "academic" about that. What's academic is reveling in formalism for its own sake.

You can't equate the Latin type scene with that of Inuktitut. The former is a 40-something guy still living with his parents (mommy calligraphy and daddy lettering). He goes on a non-committal date about once a year* and remains quite happy with his lot. The latter is about 10. Don't choose his spouse just yet.

* There is an average of about one culturally progressive Latin type design per year. Considering the volume of Latin type design, all I can say is: whoop-de-doo.

So to me Latin is indeed stuck, and I wouldn't want to see Inuktitut stuck next to it. Are there writing systems that are more stuck than Latin? When you factor in age, not that many. Maybe Chinese, with its chirographic ball & chain. Arabic seems pretty stuck, but does enjoy a good deal of experimentation, largely out of frustration (which explains the generally poor results). Armenian is less stuck than Latin, because a greater proportion of Armenian fonts made today are culturally progressive. Take Arek for example (also at Rosetta).* Am I in love with it? No way - that Italic isn't my cup of tea at all. But it's part of us becoming less stuck. I believe in that enough to have a caused a rift between myself and a very prestigious Armenian type designer when I fought hard in support of Arek winning the Grand Prize at the Granshan 2010 competition. It would be nice to see a Native American fight for his script's future, not just its present.


I'm not the only one who believes that Latin type is playing it too safe these days, generally content to ramp up the OpenType "arms race" rather than risk contemplating its cultural future. But for a threatened minority, the future is all we have.

this in itself will help promulgate variation

This is what I'm not sure about. Just like how many Cherokee think that any font that tries to improve on the archetype isn't really Cherokee, that it risks cultural dilution. This is because the original Cherokee design was such a powerful singularity - like a glass of dirty water in the desert. Luckily I think Huronia is far better than a glass of dirty water. But there remains the tinge of worry that people will follow the singularity that it is too blindly, making it harder to move beyond the chirographic illusion, notably when it wasn't even there before.

Now, for anybody who doesn't see anything wrong with chirography in type, there's nothing to worry about - it's great to watch the little native dude drinking at the party.


For one thing, the cultural magnanimity of Rimmer's Latin is inspiring.


Nick Shinn's picture

…for anybody who doesn't see anything wrong with chirography in type…

Does anybody else share your philosophy on this matter?
I partly do, with regards to Greek, but only to the extent of disagreeing with those who say that Greek script typefaces MUST be chirographically informed.

IMO there’s plenty of room for chiro and non-chiro typefaces in all scripts.
Ultimately, natives (of all countries and cultures, including the developed world) should tell their own stories in their own voices, with their own local, indigenously designed fonts. But in the meantime, way to go Ross Mills.

hrant's picture

I think many people do partly share my philosophy (as you do). Anyway I'm not looking for converts, just awareness of the -what I consider to be severe- limitations of chirography, especially for text type. I would like to see Inuktitut free of its dominance, instead of being gifted a gilded cage.

More native participation is critical, but you can't leave it entirely to the natives. For one thing, as John Hudson once astutely pointed out to me, ironically most cultural damage in type design is done by natives! But most of all, few cultures sufficiently foster the critically important technical aspects of type design.


charles ellertson's picture

But most of all, few cultures sufficiently foster the critically important technical aspects of type design.

That's certainly true. Look at how many fonts print so poorly, or display on the screen so poorly -- those being the only "critically important" aspects of type design. Or maybe it's not true. Is this paucity of function the culture's fault, or the type designers? Or the culture's fault for spawning so many useless designers?

Makes my head hurt. Maybe Typophile should just give Hrant his own forum.

Ross Mills's picture

Hrant, I think you're chasing your own tail, but that's not a judgement—I've seen others perfectly entertained doing this. I'm not in general disagreement with your sentiment, but I think the nature of your discussion is in conflict with what the priorities ought to be in the present and immediate future.

Yes, it would be nice for a script's future to be fought for. However, the only thing that is going to enable that is the future of the language, so what would really be nice is a concerted fight for that language—and as far as it relates to a writing system this implies publishing. If anyone wishes to support the continued existence of the America's (or anywhere else for that matter) truly threatened, endangered languages, then first you should look to creating—or assisting to create—written material for those languages*. Otherwise, both the language and the novel writing system becomes nothing more then a anthropological curiosity. Then it truly is academic.

In any case, this is a release thread. If more discussion on such subjects is wanted, perhaps a different thread should be used.

*Of course, oral literatures are the foundation of American languages, and play an important part of continuing use, but we're talking about scripts and fonts, so are principally concerned with the transcription process and presentation of language. And, although literature of any sort is all well and good, the future of some languages may now be rooted in current modes of communication: kids texting in their grandparent's language.

Ross Mills's picture


Certainly, Tiro will continue. We are principally a custom outfit, and prefer to maintain the focus on that, so sharing or relinquishing the retail end of things to Rosetta only makes sense.

hrant's picture

Ross*, I've actually been feeling guilty about having this discussion here since the beginning - but I worried that moving it would dilute it. However by making an explicit suggestion you've mercifully sealed its fate...

* Or should I be calling you William? After all these years I'm still not sure - sorry!

So anybody interested in the discussion about the evolution of minority scripts should ideally pick things up here:

And I'm sorry for not making the move sooner.


Ross Mills's picture

* Or should I be calling you William?

Oh, hell no, my conquering days are over.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, it's one thing to have a conceptual critical framework, but its another to be so focused on it that one becomes blind to what is in front of you. Huronia is not a chirographic type design. It's stroke modulation patterns are sculptural rather than based on writing tools, and owe more to Dwiggin's approach than to anything Noordzijan. Go look at the illustrations again and examine closely the weight distributions and the transitions. It's one of the things that makes Ross a more interesting type designer than I am.

The 'influence of the broad nib', as Nick characterises it, is limited to the fact that some strokes are thin and others thicker, which is reasonably novel in the context of Inuktitut, but several steps removed from the pen.

John Hudson's picture

Oh, and doesn't that first illustration make you want to get in a canoe?

hrant's picture

John, would you like to copy/move your post to the other thread, or would you mind if I do?

Canoe? Indeed it does - as long as I have my turtleneck.


John Hudson's picture

I put my comment here because it relates directly to Huronia, not to the more general question of typeface design for minority languages or scripts. I may have something to contribute to the other thread, but I'm enjoying watching Ross hold forth, so maybe I'll shut up for once.

Nick Shinn's picture

Right John, the first thing that came into my mind at a cursory glance was the organic, non-geometric quality of the face, which I carelessly attributed to the pen. Despite being sculptural it's very gestural, perhaps more like brushwork.

quadibloc's picture

The chirographic nature of the Inuktitut italic did surprise me at first. But I presume that the Inuit do use their script for writing, and the italic script looked more like writing with a ball-point pen, as might happen in real life, than something that was dragged through hundreds of years of humanist scribal tradition in an attempt to obtain compatibility.

Instead, the criticism I would direct at this font is that it costs money.

In general, there's nothing wrong with the people who put forth the effort to design quality typefaces to earn a living from doing so. And, if the goal of this typeface is to enable government departments and major publishers and advertisers who wish to communicate with the people of Canada's First Nations in style, then there's nothing inconsistent with that goal and a price tag.

However, it would be inconsistent if there were pretensions (there may not be; I may be getting that idea from the topic of the thread that led me to this one) of the typeface being in some way an attempt to contribute to the continued survival of indigenous languages. The speakers of which also tend to be impecunious, leaving them little in the way of resources for luxuries - except for a minimum of immediately gratifying ones to help them maintain their sanity in a grim situation of life - which is, of course, why their languages are in such great danger.

But then, although it's better than nothing, how "alive" is a language that is only learned as a second language out of a sense of cultural obligation?

Ross Mills's picture

I don't see any inconsistency or pretense in this case. I suspect most use will be related to some project or another (publishing print material), and offering a font at a reduced rate would be no different then the printer offering their services at a reduced rate if they felt the project warranted it. In either case, the fact that a product costs money (not much, I might add) does not mean its not still contributing.

It would be a slippery slope if we tried to universally associate product value to every market or economic segment, but even so, the price is in line with the difference in median income from aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal. This is why the fonts are $10–$15 instead of something like $20–$25. Those with little or no money should not be purchasing fonts, and when push comes to shove, I'm sure I'll still be giving away free licenses. It is not the poorest in any such community that is responsible for paying for the production of printed material, so I'm a bit confused by this assertion. In my experience, users are quite happy to pay a reasonable fee to get a quality font that properly supports their language, where other free fonts fall short. In most cases, those free fonts are still out there for those that need them.

As far as Inuktitut is concerned, we already provide other fonts that are free to end users. I have actually attempted to have a development and release model that would allow for the font development to be funded and have free versions available by having government or other other organizations purchase a distribution license, which would subsidize the free version. Thus far, no one has taken me up on this for Huronia, and so we are left with a nominal license fee in place, which incidentally I can assure you is not going to net any profit in the scheme of things.

Bendy's picture

>It is not the poorest in any such community that is responsible for paying for the production of printed material...

Absolutely. From a slightly different perspective, my experiences with designing Burmese have led to enquiries from people in education, lexicography and publishing, who need and license fonts professionally. Those industries definitely propel cultural development.

charles ellertson's picture

Instead, the criticism I would direct at this font is that it costs money.

Hmm. So, does that mean you're going to contribute to the common good by working over one of the free (I'd hope open source) fonts? Good for you.

John Hudson's picture

Those industries definitely propel cultural development.

Of course they do, and the number of script communities that languish for years with one or two -- sometimes not very good -- free fonts illustrate what can happen when there is no financial incentive to develop new styles and more sophisticated typographic support.

tmac's picture

As a Canadian designer/typographer I deeply appreciate this typeface. It represents a great opportunity to make better work that respectfully embraces cultures and nations within this country.

So: Thank you Ross Mills, Tiro Typeworks, and Rosetta Type Foundry.

I can't wait to see a book on Cape Dorset printmaking using Huronia Latin and Inuktitut side-by-side!

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