Jessica Harjo (M.A. Design '13) Creates Typeface For Osage Language
THESIS PDF.jpgThe language spoken by the Osage Nation of Oklahoma is at risk of disappearing. The last native speaker died in 2005 and only 10 fluent speakers remain. When Jessica Harjo (M.A. Design '13), a mScreen Shot 2013-09-19 at 3.51.25 PM.pngember of the Osage tribe, started thinking about her thesis project, she wanted her work to contribute to the revitalization of her language. An earlier orthography developed for the tribe doesn't conform to Unicode-the ability to translate typeface into digital text.

Using research and feedback from individuals who use the current orthography, Harjo redesigned each symbol to Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 3.54.47 PM.pngbe Unicode compatible. Going a step further, she incorporated aspects of Osage culture into the characters, such as their emphasis on symmetry, the design of the wedding coat, and forms of their traditional dances.

Once Osage is available for computer use, Harjo hopes greater accessibility will engage younger speakers to learn it. "Since we use advanced technology to teach, communicate, and do more of our everyday living activities," she explained, "it is important to be able to involve tribal languages in these processes and practices."

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