African typography is inevitably linked in the minds of many to tribal imagery, rough lettering, and loosely geometrical features. Designers wishing to convey an African sensibility in their work through typography are often left with stereotypical choices. A search with the keyword “African” on Typekit or Font Squirrel does not yield any results. Further queries on Fonts.com and Linotype yield these choices: African Elephant Trunk, Lagos Regular, Afroflare Regular, and simply “African.” This latter font family, designed by Anton Scholtz, is by far the most popular hit as it is also present in Google fonts. The font families are predictably called African Gold, African Jungle and African Textile. Needless to say that there is a glaring gap of elegant African-inspired fonts.
So what exactly qualifies as an African font? Is such a designation necessary or even desirable? With such a vibrant culture, Africa is teeming with opportunities for designers to get inspired and bring a fresh new look to a field that can be prone to dogmatism as to what constitutes good typography. Below are some designers aiming to showcase the cultural heritage of the continent and bringing it into the digital age.