Murathan Biliktu’s new font explores the experience of migrant workers in Germany
The Turkish designer behind the new independent type foundry, Biliktu foundry, leads us through the rich cultural history which informs his type design.
- Elfie Thomas
- 10 February 2022
To browse through Murathan Biliktu’s impressive inventory of typefaces is to take a history lesson in the landscapes, rock stars, and languages of the Anatolian region. The multidisciplinary designer is fascinated by solving problems by using “human-centred studies” and turned to type design when he became frustrated by the lack of fonts which were sufficiently expressive to communicate his ideas. Having recently launched his own type foundry, he now has the creative freedom to weave rich cultural histories into each new font. “They are like little universes to me, with their own stories and cultures.”
Murathan’s recently finished typeface, Arbeiter, is a sterling example of the designer’s skill in telling stories through type. Like his other fonts, Ikon and Ikon Pontika, it explores Anatolia’s “vast landscapes and cultures”. But this typeface focuses particularly on its story of diaspora and is dedicated to “those who had to relocate to a new country in order to work and start a new life, and who had to face difficulties”. It also has personal significance for the designer. His grandfather went to work as an electrical engineer in Germany in the 60s. His tales of Germany were filled with wires, pipes and clunky industrial machinery which all find their place in this mechanical typeface.
Murathan produced different versions of the font to suggest the nuances of the cultural history behind its inception. For Arbeiter Neue, Murathan softened the corners of the font in order to give it more of a “human touch”. Experimenting further with this family, he created Arbeiter Neue Abstrakt. The type has become abstracted and intentionally “illegible and “alien”. In this way the type evokes German culture “through the eyes of foreign workers who do not understand the language or the culture yet, as well as migrant workers who are alien to the German population,” the designer explains.
One of Murathan’s most popular fonts is inspired by the “psychedelic sound” of legendary “Anatolian Rock” artist Erkin Foray. Aiming to create an expressive yet versatile font, the designer attributes Erkin's success to its “simplicity” but also the way it “indicates motion”. Attracting a roster of musical clients, this sinuous and playful font has been used by artists like the K-Pop star KAI and new bands like Drove, taking on its own “unique” character in each new context.
Pointing us in the direction of one of his favourite fonts, Murathan tells us about Ikon Pontika. For this typeface, he looked to the “rich historical past” of the Black Sea region. It combines experimental Georgian, Armenian, and Greek scripts and was inspired by “the harsh weather, the vista of green tablelands, and the humid and foggy sky” of the region. For this font Murathan branched out into scripts that have little online resources, like Armenian and Georgian. In the future, he wants to continue in this direction and foster a “more inclusive” approach to design. “There aren’t many fonts online that support Kazakh Latin and Cyrillic,” he adds. So on his next project, which he assures us will be one of his most “detailed” fonts, he is working with his Kazakh friends to create a Kazakh, Central Asian-inspired typeface.
Copyright © Biliktu Foundry, 2022
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.