How typography is evolving across Southeast Asia

The Southeast Asian Types delves into the work of designers across the region and the circumstances shaping different scenes. We hear from Januar Rianto and Aditya Wiraatmaja, who worked on the zine, about the past, present and future of typography in Southeast Asia

“Southeast Asia often doesn’t take centre stage in discussions related to type design,” writes Januar Rianto in the first edition of his zine, The Southeast Asian Types, which was initiated partly to rectify that. Launched by Further Reading, the publishing arm of Indonesian design practice Each Other Company, the zine is a patchwork of type specimens, conversations and first-person accounts relating to typography across the region, presenting designs and weaving in the context behind them.

Discussions about the zine started to take shape back in 2021, when Further Reading published a journal focusing on everything from typography to sociopolitics in the South and Southeast Asia – particularly Indonesia and Malaysia – with contributions from designers in these regions and their diasporas. This sparked the idea for a dedicated publication on Southeast Asian typography, explains Rianto, who saw an opportunity to use it as “an entry point for large, more extensive discussions”.

Home to nearly a tenth of the world’s population, the languages and scripts vary enormously between, and within countries in Southeast Asia. Rianto explains that a “confluence of historical factors” – everything from colonialism to the region’s position along international trade routes – have shaped Southeast Asia’s complex regional identity and linguistics. Take Indonesia, where he is based. “Indonesia alone is a multilingual and multiscript country, with each province having its own language and dialects,” he tells us. “There are approximately 700 languages and 14 scripts spoken in Indonesia. However, Bahasa Indonesia serves as the national language, and the Latin script is predominantly used in daily life.” However, in countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, indigenous scripts are still widely used every day, he says.

Top: Taklobo Baybayin by John David Maza @jad.otf; Above: Salbabida Sans by Jo Malinis @aniciaclean