responsive typography


school is helpful, but you are a priority

beckiiejayde  asked:

hi, im loving Star-Crossed at the minute specially the Sondiv language , i just wondered if there was an alphabet or number scheme etc for how sondiv is worked out.

Why indeed there is. :)

First, some background. Sondiv doesn’t have an alphabet, per se. An alphabet is a writing system that has glyphs for all consonant and vowel sounds, and each glyph has more or less the same status. English, Russian and Greek all use alphabets, albeit three different ones.

Sondiv’s script, called Kwandon (which I’ll explain later), is an abjad, or consonantal alphabet. In an abjad, only consonants get official letter status, with some exceptions. For the most part, vowels either aren’t written, or are only written in certain circumstances. These circumstances will vary depending on the script.

Before filming began for Star-Crossed, I met with all the writers to discuss the direction of the show and where I might fit in. There we talked a bit about the Atrians’ home planet (it was around that time they came up with the idea that the Atrian tattoos would glow when they touched water, for example). Going with the idea that their planet was even more ocean than Earth is, I thought it might be cool to come up with a script that looked a bit like seaweed. And since I’d done two abugidas and a syllabary for Defiance, I wanted to do something different.

When I started creating the language, I knew I wanted to do a root system like Arabic for two reasons: (1) My very first language was directly inspired by Arabic, and it was terrible. I wanted a chance to do it right; and (2) I wanted a system that would make it easy to coin new words in bunches. When I started toying with the writing system, then, I started with the idea that the consonants would be prominent, and that it would have a kind of seaweed-y look to it. I love scripts where lines are written over and under preceding and following glyphs, so I wanted to do something with that. Here was an initial sketch I did:

This was what I showed to the producer along with an explanation of the system, and I appreciate the faith they put in me, because it doesn’t look like much here. (It certainly helped, no doubt, that I had the Defiance scripts as samples of my previous work.)

The next step was to create the system. I did this before even working on the glyphs themselves. With the language, I created a system with twenty-four basic nominal patterns and an adjectival pattern that would be used to build up words. They’d have some basic semantic patterns, but they were very basic; not rigid, like a noun class system. For example, Pattern XVII is defined simply as “Animate A”, and Pattern XVIII as “Animate B”—and the first two are just called “Common A” and “Common B”. The categories are extremely broad. To give you an example, knos is a Pattern II word that means “seaweed”, and from the same root, the Pattern XII word is kwandon, which is a pattern associated with “augmentative implements”. Thus, the writing system is like a special tool that has something to do with seaweed—or, the seaweed script.

The goal with the orthography was to encode each of these twenty-five patterns unambiguously while only writing the consonants. To do so, I drew up a schema, pictured below, where the root was just a box, and each pattern had one of what ended up being four modifications.

Part of the goal in doing this schema was to see how few of these modifications I could get away with. If the abjad was going to have, say, twenty-five glyphs, and each one would need to show a modification for both two and three consonant roots, keeping the modifications to a minimum was ideal (right there, that’s 25 x 4 x 2 = 200 total glyphs. Not counting punctuation or numbers, English has 52, counting upper and lower case). Ultimately, I decided that four was the minimum number of modifications I could get away with, so I stuck with that. In the picture above, the four modifications are represented by a (1) light blue star; (2) dark blue star; (3) purple star; and (4) pink star. So for (xii), you can see it has two modifications (light blue and pink), while (vii) has just one (light blue).

Now that the schema was done, the next step was creating the glyphs. I decided that in order to make this work most efficiently, all the glyphs should occupy the same space—and, for the most part, they do (at least vertically). I then created two modifications that would go above the glyphs, and two that would go below. Then it was time to create the glyphs.

There’s a lot of material here, so I’m going to break it down into chunks. What you’re going to see below is each glyph in the system presented in rows. On the left is going to be the basic sound the glyph stands for, followed by the glyph in its stand-alone form. After that will be the four glyph modifications, which I’ll just number 1 through 4 based on this ordering. The top row will be what the modification looks like in a biconsonantal root, and the bottom row will be what the modification looks like in a triconsonantal root. Here’s the first set: the oral stops.


Hopefully that makes sense, because there’s a lot more coming! Next here are some of the basic fricatives:


That third modification of [v] is one of my favorite characters in the system. Next are the liquids and nasals:


There’s that ol’ onion character [n]. lol I love it.

The next two sets are a characteristic feature of the system. First are a group of three that obviously group together (their shape will indicate this). Even though [h] is a fricative, I call this group the glide group:


And this next group is the vowel group. I know I said this was an abjad, but these three characters are former long versions of vowels that will sometimes be used as consonants in roots. It’s useful to have these because it can really make nouns look very different. You’ll notice that the first modification for these is identical to the glides. That’s simply a feature of the system.


These were the original sounds of Sondiv. There are also some glyphs that were created for foreign sounds, which are shown below:


These were useful in doing names. Basically, [tʃ] is the ch sound; [dʒ] is the j sound; [ʃ] is the sh sound; and [θ] is the th sound.

To round things out, I created two characters for the vowels [e] and [o]. I did this just in case anyone using the font tried to use it as an alphabet. Plus, the characters do enjoy some use in the official system (for example, the [e] glyph is used in the vocative form of nouns and pronouns). These two glyphs do not take any modifications, as they’re not a part of that system.


Each of the modifications interacts with other glyphs around the modified glyph in specific ways. It crucially depends on how many consonants are considered to be a part of the root. Basically, modifications 1 and 2 are written over the one or two consonants to the left; modification 3 is written under the one or two consonants to the right; and modification 4 occurs before a single consonant, or in between two consonants. Here’s what it looks like using the modified consonant [m] as an example with some [g]’s as filler consonants.


That’s how you use the modified consonants.

The last piece is how all this mess is pronounced. (lol this post gettin’ looooong!) Below is part one of a two part chart featuring all the noun patterns of Sondiv, plus the adjectival paradigms, a couple names, and the determiner pattern. What you’re going to see below is a number that refers to a noun pattern, followed by a nonce form of the noun if applied to a biconsonantal root of S-K and a triconsonantal root of S-K-T. I chose these two and three consonants because they’re the few that don’t undergo any sound changes (or at least in these circumstances). Most nouns have singular and plural forms. The numbers refer to the modification (applied as shown above), and the letters refer either to an actual consonantal glyph, or to the special plural glyph (referred to by P), shown below:

Here’s the first chart (root letters are in black):


And here’s the second chart. Note that the patterns all apply as shown above, except where you see a Ø. That refers to no marking (e.g. if two or three letters appear together, they’ll be pronounced as determiners). For the male names, the third root letter is orphaned in triconsonantal forms (so the second letter, rather than the third, is modified), and for female names, the first root letter is orphaned (so the third root letter modification covers only the second letter, not the first and second). Here’s the last chart:


So, when it comes to forming names in Sondiv, what I would try to do was match the name to one of these patterns so that I could spell it. If I couldn’t, I’d just go in two or three letter chunks and piece names together. So if I were doing a random name (what’s a name… How about Natalie), I’d first figure out how it would be pronounced in Sondiv. There’s no [æ] vowel in Sondiv, so it’d probably come out as [a], meaning it would be pronounced [natali]. That’s good.

Next step is to figure out what consonants it’s going to take. It’s definitely going to take [n], [t] and [l]. Now’s the tricky part. In Sondiv, the sound /l/ becomes [d] when it occurs before the vowels [i] or [u]. To preserve the [l] sound, you have to put a silent [h] after the [l], or do something tricksy, like use [j] instead of [i]. The consonant will get orphaned at the end of the word and get pronounced like a vowel (kind of like what happens with y in English), and the [l] will remain an [l].

So that means we need a root with [n], [t], [l] and [j]. Okay. As you can see, there is no root that fits this. The closest we get is the Sondiv male name pattern. That’ll give us natal. Once that’s established, we can just through [j] onto the end, and voilà!

That’s my little sister name’s, and also the name of the actress who plays Taylor, Natalie Hall (who was amazing).

Anyway, to get to the other part of your question, yes, there was a number system worked out. It was basically base-10, except there were special words for prime numbers up to twenty (i.e. non-combinatorial words for eleven, thirteen, seventeen and nineteen). The symbols for numbers were glyphs from the alphabet, though. You used a special number sign (it looks like the plural sign backwards) to indicate that what you were writing was a number and not a word. Realistically, a language this old shouldn’t use letters for numbers anymore (that’s an early evolutionary stage), but, honestly, I just didn’t want to create glyphs for numbers. I did for the numbers one and zero, but after that, it’s just letters.

But, other than the special name glyph which I always forgot to use, that’s it! That’s how you write in the Sondiv Kwandon writing system. It kind of looks like a simple alphabet, but in reality it’s almost needlessly complex. It certainly makes writing names a challenge, but it’s kind of fun! Again, I’m glad people liked the script. I was kind of on the fence about it when I first finished it. It’s so gratifying to know that there are some out there who liked the look of it. It was a lot of work in a very short amount of time.

I hope you enjoy the last episode of Star-Crossed tonight! It was great fun working on the show, and it’s nice to know it accrued a small but vocal following. :)


This is my Albion. Its cities will bow to my law…or they will burn. Its mountains will bend to my will…or they will fall. This is my Albion, its people will do as I say…or they will die. Its future will be as I decree, or it will end. This is my Albion and I will see it destroyed before I surrender it.

(Game Typography Challenge Day 03: Center or justify the type.)

To appreciate the impact of Red’s music, consider first the current state of Cloudbank’s social climate and how it evolved over the past two decades. When an altercation finally erupted in the crowd during one of her performances, it was the first such incident in four years.
(Game Typography Challenge Day 07: Use 3 Fonts {Landscape, Magellanes, Texta})

‘Champagne Is Good’

My response to pauldownesdesignsMoet on my Mind.’

For this piece I looked at Art Deco posters for inspiration. I like the use of geometric shapes and fading colours. I have always been fascinated with designs that make use of negative space creatively and so I wanted to try it out myself. Initially, I used a digital typeface for the quote however, I decided to hand-render the letters to make it feel more organic.

Here’s Paul’s response