Microsoft helped digitize a West African language to preserve the culture of its speakers

In launching ADLaM Display, McCann New York extended the decades-long work of brothers Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry

Published On
May 01, 2023
A designer with a pencil working on tweaks to the ADLaM typeface

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Microsoft continues its efforts in the realm of cultural preservation with an initiative, in partnership with McCann New York, that involves digitizing the alphabet of a West African language that for most of its long history was only an oral language, not a written one.

The story began decades ago when two brothers, Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry, set out to create a written version of Pulaar, the language of the Fulani people. In 1989, they created an early, handwritten version of an alphabet, which they called “ADLaM.” As language and culture are so intertwined, they saw it as a preservation project. Indeed, ADLaM was an acronym using the alphabet’s first four letters—Alkule Dandayɗe Leñol Mulugol, which means “the alphabet that protects the people from vanishing.”

In more recent years, there has been a pressing need to digitize ADLaM for the modern age of computers. This is where Microsoft stepped in, offering its support to bring AdLam into digital platforms—via a new font called ADLaM Display.


The value of the project creation extends well beyond online communication. The typeface is being used by local businesses on things like packaged goods, and literacy is a primary goal of the project as well. Guinean schools are opening with AdLam as the primary language, and McCann and the brothers created educational materials for them.

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“By the end of the century, 90 percent of the world’s languages could be extinct,” said Shayne Millington, co-chief creative officer, McCann NY. “In a world where one language is lost every three months, the ADLaM project embodies the importance of preserving and securing the future of the world’s multitude of cultures and languages, and as a result, the precious memories, myths, rituals, and deep knowledge that has been passed down over centuries.” 


May 01, 2023
Client :
Agency :
McCann New York
Chief Brand Officer :
Kathleen Hall
General Manager :
Carol Phillips Hutchinson
Director :
Steve Simmons
Sr. Communications Manager :
Hannah Westing
General Manager :
Lori Gross
Global Creative Director :
Sven Seger
Sr. Creative Director :
Phyllis Murphy
Creative Director :
Steve Foyle
Director :
Karina Reck
Sr. Designer :
Shyla Lindsey
Director :
Aleksey Fedorov
Director :
Krystofer Glover
Producer :
Kaity Butcher
Strategist :
Steve Wiens
Principal Program Manager :
Si Daniels
Principal Product Manager :
Andrew Glass
Co-Chief Creative Officer :
Sean Bryan
Co-Chief Creative Officer :
Shayne Millington
Co-Chief Creative Officer :
Pierre Lipton
EVP Global Executive Creative Director :
Cristina Reina
EVP Global Executive Creative Director :
Pete Johnson
Group Creative Director :
Christiano Abrahao
Group Creative Director :
Luke Flynn
GCD Art Director :
Guilherme Racz
GCD Copywriter :
Lucas Casao
Sr. Art Director :
Mikey Bready
Sr. Copywriter :
Sarah Wagner
ACD Art Director :
Kazuo Kubo
ACD Copywriter :
Lucas Ribeiro
EVP Head of Design :
Matt van Leeuwen
Design Director :
Mook Phoungbut
Designer :
Chocho Han
Designer :
Malik Dupree
Senior Creative Technologist :
Alicia Foor
President :
John Dunleavy
Managing Director :
Kevin Nelson
SVP Executive Account Director :
Socrates Papazoglou
VP Account Director :
Gabriella Dickens
Senior Account Executive :
Rachel Zambernardi
Account Executive :
Toyin Lanade
SVP Director of Creative Excellence and Operations :
Stella Warkman
SVP Group Account Director :
Karla Kruger
Senior Project Manager :
Lauren Kosche
Senior Project Manager :
Catalina Condon
EVP Chief Production Officer :
Aaron Kovan
SVP Executive Integrated Producer :
Stacy Flaum
Senior Integrated Producer :
MJ Soler
Senior Integrated Producer :
Jory Sutton
Junior Producer :
Travaé Davis
Videographer :
Katie Henry
Senior Music Producer :
Colleen Dahlstrom
Junior Music Producer :
Madison Rowe
Business Director :
Adrian Hincu
Account Manager :
Mama Kane
Chief Strategy Officer :
Erica Yahr
VP Strategy Director :
Amadeo Plaza
Associate Strategist :
Kyla Jackson
Business Manager :
David Halberstadt
VP Director :
Terry Marcello
Talent Payment Manager :
Lisa Schneider
Director of Music :
Jamie Jou
Post Production :
Craft NY
ADLaM Co-creator :
Abdoulaye Barry
ADLaM Co-creator :
Ibrahima Barry
Typeface Design :
Mark Jamra
Typeface Design :
Neil Patel
Typeface Design :
Andrew Footit
Music :
Textile Expert :
Duncan Clarke
Video Production :
Spirit McCann
Director :
Jean Didi
Director/Photographer :
Andrew Zeitner
Photographer :
Khadija Farah

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