The world’s writing systems: Oliver Häusle’s book showcases 26 scripts from all across the globe
Featuring more than 100 designers from across the globe, Graphic Languages: A Visual Guide to the World’s Writing Systems is your one-stop-shop for understanding the beauty, impact and variety of contemporary writing scripts. “Considering the vast number of writing systems worldwide,” its designer Oliver Häusle tells us, “the chosen ones are currently in use and are employed by a substantial population,” explaining the decision process on what to include. “Another significant factor is their digital compatibility,” he continues, “only writing systems that have been encoded in Unicode could be included in this project,” culminating in a total of 26. “Even though a handful of other writing systems technically met these criteria too,” Häusle notes, “the research phase revealed that it was exceptionally challenging to find sufficient content,” not ruling out, however, their inclusion in future editions.
In the book’s first edition, each of the 26 writing systems are individually explored, with dedicated chapters presenting their key parameters and foundational characteristics, alongside a curation of glyphs and letterforms crafted by Graphic Language’s collaborators. “Some of the designers not only share glyphs but also valuable linguistic and type design-related information,” Häusle explains, “the book concludes with an index of the 100+ collaborators involved in the project,” with an informative bibliography listing the entirety of the grapholinguistic sources and contacts that went into the piece’s creation.
Tackling the utility and diversity of the scripts with an ultimately practical and enduring approach, Häusle opted for a single typeface across the design of the publication, implementing the Regular and Medium cuts of Optimo’s sans serif, Theinhardt. “It performs exceptionally well in various contexts,” from macro to micro detailing, Häusle recalls, “with a timeless and modern design, appearing neutral yet not devoid of character,” standing confidently in isolation to the book’s surrounding, expressive scripts, as evidenced in its stark cover.
“The cover design prominently features all the writing systems represented in Graphic Languages,” he recalls, showcasing each script. “In some cases, the name of the writing system aligns with the name of the language it represents,” Häusle notes, whilst other systems are used across multiple languages. “The white space intentionally left on the cover serves as a visual indicator that there is still room for additional writing systems to be included,” he adds, “as there are many more to explore,” playing into the publication’s practicality, as well as illustrating its monochromatic design.
“There was one main factor that guided the decision to exclusively use black and white in this project,” Häusle recalls, was “the need for neutrality in presenting the contents through glyphs,” whilst likewise emphasising the legacy of writing and printing through the ‘default’ quality of black ink on white paper. “The introduction of colour can introduce potential interpretations tied to specific meanings,” he continues, especially in the context of a publication exploring a wide variety of cultures. “Thus, using anything other than black could lead to varying interpretations depending on one’s cultural background,” Häusle concludes, “in addition to this aspect, the decision also carries an ecological impact,” with a single-colour offering a more eco-friendly print production than full-colour.