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 initially sketched out how the Klokobetz alphabet works. These were then translated by Barrault into letterforms through plotting them out on a grid and adjusting the shapes to create a cohesive set of characters. The letters became naturally calligraphic in style; almost like Arabic scripts with a hint of the aesthetics of mathematical notations and Hindi scripts.

The letterforms are sans serif and slightly off-kilter, with a sense of rhythm aiming to visually represent the sounds and subtle tones of the spoken words 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.”

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Emily Gosling

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