Putlu, 30-nik arraagunik titiqtugaqattalirninga (Pudlo, Thirty Years of Drawing)
This catalog (typeset entirely in Inuktitut using syllabics) is a very important piece of Canadian graphic design history, and I’d like to share an abridged version of the story behind the syllabic typeface used.
Many Algonquian languages (Cree, Ojibwe, Inuktitut) and the Canadian syllabics used for reading and writing these languages were systematically destroyed by colonization. So if you wanted to design something in, for instance, the Cree language, you couldn't just order a Cree typeface like you would order Helvetica. So, in the late-70s—with the help of a grant from Canada Council—Japanese Canadian designer Eiko Emori traveled across Canada, met with First Nations, linguists, and immersed herself in indigenous life to understand their culture, language, and the syllabics they used for reading and writing. The resulting typeface—which was drawn by hand in various sizes in her studio for use in phototypesetting and letraset—would then be utilized in a short-lived government education program for the Cree people.
By the late 1980s, with type design software like Adobe PostScript becoming widely available, Eiko worked on digitizing the syllabics she had designed. Soon after, a new syllabic font was born. She named it “Emilia” (after her daughter), and with two different weights to choose from (Regular and Medium), Emilia was the very first professionally designed Canadian syllabic font for use on a computer.
Emilia was used in this catalog in 1990, and for various other projects including a cultural magazine published by the Inuit Tapirisat called “Inuktitut,” which I have already added here: https://peoplesgdarchive.org/item/6240/inuktitut-magazine-74
Eiko Emori deserves recognition for her contribution to Canadian design and indigenous culture. A Yale grad (1963), she is by far one of the most talented modern masters in Canadian graphic design history—able to typeset in multiple languages including Hebrew, French, and Japanese, and of course, syllabics.
This entry is just the tip of the iceberg of Eiko’s vast contribution to Canadian graphic design (and Japanese graphic design), and I look forward to telling you all about the rest of her life in an upcoming essay coming out in a book on female graphic designers in 2024. For now, I’ll be contributing some of her work here on the People’s Graphic Design Archive.
If you have any questions, please comment!
Pudlo Pudlat (Pudlo) (February 4, 1916 - December 28, 1992) was a Canadian Inuit artist whose preferred medium was a combination of acrylic wash and coloured pencils. His works are in the collections of most Canadian museums. At his death in 1992, Pudlo left a body of work that included more than 4000 drawings and 200 prints.
Born at Kamadjuak Camp, Baffin Island, Canada, Pudlat lived for much of his life in the Kimmirut region in what is now the Canadian Territory of Nunavut, hunting and fishing with his family along the southwest coast of Baffin Island. Pudlo began drawing in the early 1960s after he abandoned the semi-nomadic way of life and settled in Cape Dorset. He experienced firsthand the radical transformation of life in the Arctic that occurred in the 20th Century and reached its peak in the 1950s.
"Pudlo: Thirty Years of Drawing" was the first solo show for an Inuit artist at the National Gallery of Canada.