How do you design a font for a fictional language?
Lyon-based graphic designer Jérémy Barrault recently undertook a rather unusual project: designing a typeface for a fictional dialect for French singer Nosfell, who speaks his very own language, Klobobetz, which is supposed to be the Klokochazian tongue.
Barrault has often worked on music based projects and initially made the font for Nosfell last year, which he has now developed into a codex-like publication.
Nosfell’s full stage name, Labyala Fela Da Jawid Fel, means “The one who walks and heals”; and his Klokobetz language draws on sounds from African, Asian and European languages.
“My father spoke seven official languages. Klokobetz was number eight, an uncanny tongue he invented and reserved for secret personal conversations with me at night,” says the singer. “He moved out when I was 12, and during my teens, I began working on a written version of the alphabet. Trying to describe the characters with roman type was never enough—I had to imagine more accents and diphthongs, so I started to draw signs on paper.”
Barrault first encountered Nosfell’s work at a concert in 2007; and worked on his tour poster in 2016 to develop a unique typeface that would visually express Klokobetz.
“At first, I looked at many other scripts for reference, but I quickly realised that the project was different from all other typefaces—Klokobetz is a complete language with its own particular grammar and syntax,” Barrault told writer Angela Riechers. “The alphabet’s logic is specific to Nosfell yet is influenced by all kinds of other writing systems.”
Nosfell's Klokobetz alphabet sketches were translated by Barrault into sans-serif letterforms using a grid, making them calligraphic in style while also nodding to mathematical notations.
The sense of rhythm aims to visually represent the sounds of Klokobetz.
“For me, Klokobetz is a poetic expression of an extension of the soul—a phantasmagoria of what could’ve been before the myth of Babel,” Nosfell says. “It is a graphic and musical way to address mankind’s questions on language and its origins.”