As a creative graphic artist I’ve always deeply enjoyed challenging myself to create visually striking designs. I think it’s a great exercise to help me think outside the box & come up with completely unique and out-there designs.
As a sci-fi and fantasy fan, I LOVED coming across languages that had completely alien writing systems or symbols. I think the ability to make these designs look realistic and alien at the same time requires a non-trivial amount of creativity and skill, as they need to be both completely different from what we’re used to but also, good enough to be visually accepted as a rational written language.
Two of my favourites artists that captured my imagination early on were J.R.R. Tolkien—famed author of the Lord of the Rings series of books, and creator of many of the languages encountered therein—and the Star Trek: The Next Generation design team, led by Michael Okuda.
Tolkien alone was a wonderfully rich source of constructed languages (conlangs) to delve into. As an avid linguist and philologist, he not only designed the writing systems but also the entire languages themselves; at least 15 whole languages and dialects, some which even included contextual hand signals! Some are even are formally taught at universities and are spoken today.
Then when I came across Star Trek, I delved into that universe’s many alien writing systems & designs. Although most visual alien design was for merely decorative purpose, Star Trek spawned several fully realised languages of its own, including Klingon/Kingonaase, Vulcan, Andorian & Bajoran, but also hundreds of visual designs that are used as written languages or designs. An incredibly rich source of inspiration and mind-food to work with.
I myself even went as far as attempting to learn to speak Klingon at the Klingon Language Institute, if you can believe that—it was actually a postal course, but I did have to pay for the material. 🤓
Inspired by these, I spent countless hours over many years drawing and creating visually interesting & cohesive, flowing, or even chaotic writing systems or designs. And combined with my increasing love of type design, this is one of the results. After much ideating, reworking, and perfecting the letterforms, I’ve finally converted into a full digital typeface.
Riinaarii was the name I gave this writing system & I worked hard to make it look visually interesting and alien, as well as function as such when used, with different characters for specific letter pairings (bb, cc, ee, etc.) as well as special characters and numerals.
Although it’s not as complete as what Tolkien might’ve created—because I’m not a genius by any stretch of the word—I’ve tried hard to make it visually interesting and believable.
I may yet add many more characters to this set but it’s complete enough for now that I’m happy to show it off. I’ll also be making a demo version of this font available soon, so check back for that.
Also, somewhere in an alternate universe…
I had a little fun with brands using this alien font. Obviously, this only really works because a lot of time and money was spent on making these brands so recognisable and familiar, but I think it’s fun to see them in different languages.
What do you think?