Font Design – Haus Ethnik Dingbats


Haus Ethnik Dingbats, my first type design project, is a collection of motifs inspired from modifications on ethnic patterns derived from Zimbabwean material culture.

Before I went to college I used to experiment with letterforms. When we studied Ancient Egypt in History class we were introduced to hieroglyphics and it was fascinating. I created my own alphabet inspired by the hieroglyphs and I crushed tomato leaves to create a green ink and used a bamboo to write on coffee or tea treated paper, which I would roll up and burn the edges to create a dated document of which only I could understand!

College was my first introduction to modern typography. We hand rendered letterforms and the first font we did was Garamond. Immediately I had a fascination with modern type. My first Job at Danes Design in Harare deepened my appreciation for type and for the first two weeks all I was required to do was to go through the Adobe Font Library, everyday just looking at the fonts as initiation together with the mounting up of artwork for presentation for the senior designers.

I had the honour of working under Kevin Flood, the only Zimbabwean I knew who had a Masters in Typography! I spent that time looking at fonts and the major differences between font families. A discipline that would save me loads of time in the future.

Another revival in my typographic journey was when Saki Mafundikwa – Founder of Zimbabwe Institute of the Vigital Arts (ZIVA) published Afrikan Alphabets: The Story Of Writing In Afrika. That book reignited my passion and decided to designing my own font. I only got around to putting pen to paper end of 2014 and completed my first font Haus Ethnik Dingbats.

I had been sketching different motifs as doodles which I had intended to use to create ethnic patterns. So I went through my sketches and selected the ones I would use for the font. I settled on creating a dingbat font which I uploaded to various sites. It was picked up featured in the Smashing Magazine Newsletter.

As an ode to all those who had created free content online which had helped me develop as designer be it vectors, tutorials I made the font available free of charge. I uploaded the font in January 2014 and at time of posting this article the font had received over 42,000 downloads on DaFont.