TDC Presents “Ezhishin”, the First-Ever Conference On Native North American Typography

he Type Directors Club, the leading organization for the global type community, this fall will host Ezhishin, the first-ever conference dedicated to Native North American typography.


Named after the Ojibwe word for “s/he leaves a mark”, Ezhishin was developed to facilitate conversation around the typographic needs of First Nations/Native American communities, and showcase lettering projects and typographic styles by Native designers.  The virtual event includes more than a dozen panels and presentations on November 11-12, 2022, with workshops on November 13.

There are few Native American type designers operating today, with much of the type used by Native practitioners designed by non-Natives.  The Ezhishin conference looks to further a dialogue that both helps increase the number of Native partitioners who create their own type, and informs non-Native type designers about the unique cultural aspects and needs of Native North American community.  


Ezhishin, part of TDC’s ongoing Type Drives Culture conference series, is co-curated by Neebinnaukzhik Southall (Chippewas of Rama First Nation), a graphic designer, artist, photographer, and writer who specializes in working within Indigenous communities, and Ksenya Samarskaya, the recently appointed TDC managing director.


Southall explained how Ezhishin is based on a respectful relationship between herself and Samarskaya, who previously interviewed them for a Typographica article and, in one of her first actions as TDC managing director, asked them to co-curate a conference focused on Native North American typography.


“This conference is an example of what a positive partnership to uplift diverse communities looks like,” Southall said.  “The work of Native designers has frequently been left out of conversations in the mainstream and not adequately addressed in design history.  We want to change that situation.  The word ezhishin serves as a poetic title for a conference focused on the mark-making of typographers, as well as the legacy we leave as designers.”


The conference includes presentations and panels featuring prominent Native designers, as well as non-Native designers working respectfully with Native communities. 


Confirmed speakers to date include Joi T. Arcand (Muskeg Lake Cree), Sébastien Aubin (Opaskwayak Cree), Kevin Coochwytewa (Isleta Pueblo, Hopi), Sebastian Ebarb (Choctaw-Apache), Menaja Ganesh, Dr. Jessica Moore Harjo (Otoe-Missouria, Osage, Pawnee), John Hudson, Mark Jarma and Neil Patel, Kevin King, Noah Lee (Navajo), Victor Pascual (Navajo, Maya), Sadie Red Wing (Lakota), Christopher Sleboda, Kathleen Sleboda (Nlaka’pamux), Brian Skeet (Diné), Chris Skillern (Cherokee Nation), Bobby Joe Smith III (Lakota), Neebin Southall (Chippewas of Rama First Nation), and Leo Vicenti (Jicarilla Apache), with more to be announced.


TDC, part of The One Club for Creativity, will also offer a Type Drives Culture Slack group where conference speakers and registered attendees can further their dialogue during and after the conference.


Ezhishin’s distinctive logo, developed by type designer and Tulsey Type founder Chris Skillern, is inspired by Cherokee beadwork. With a mind towards Native cultural revitalization and self-determination, Skillern echoed the organic, curvilinear shapes found in Cherokee beadwork to create this custom font lettering in three weights along a variable type axis, which can also be layered.  The font is brought to life on the website via coding provided by Eric Jacobsen.


Ezhishin branding was collaboratively designed by Samarskaya and Southall, inspired by the bright colors of beadwork, powwow regalia, and ribbon skirts.


To register for this first-of-its-kind conference, please visit the Ezhishin website.

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