Modern typefaces with global character sets

Damon Charles's picture

I'm just starting a brand/visual identity project for a global organisation, and ideally I'd like to be able to render the wordmark part of the logo in any major world language/character set while keeping the look consistent.

Particularly tricky are Chinese / Japanese / Korean characters. I'm aware that there are options such as pairing Helvetica World with DF Hei etc, and all-in-one solutions like Nimbus Sans Global. But ideally I’d like to know if there are any more contemporary alternatives which don’t cost the earth (the client is a charity and they don’t have oodles of money to spend on the visual ID). If the only options are expensive, then maybe pointers on that too.

Characteristics I’m looking for :

Modern, Approachable, Not necessarily a Sans (but that’s probably what the client is expecting). They’re using Helvetica at the moment, and they want to move away from that to something a bit more distinctive and friendly (a *bit* more, as I appreciate the options are probably going to be limited.)

Any other related advice would be very much appreciated.

riccard0's picture

Not a suggestion, just a pointer to other threads discussing the matter:

Damon Charles's picture

Useful link - thanks. I did a forum search before posting but didn't turn up much.

goloub's picture

There's one sans currently in development. I doubt you'll have time to wait, it will be ready by November 2014, but I'll post it still.
It's called Mir Sans, Mir is a Russian word meaning both "world" and "peace". It has support for Extended Latin with IPA, Full extended cyrillic glyph coverage, Politonic Greek, all currency signs, Hebrew with nikkudot, Armenian with armenian ligatures, Georgian scripts: Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri, Mkhedruli and Mkhedruli Mtavruli. Also I have future plans to support Arabic scripts, Hangul (Korean) and some other minor scripts like Tifinagh.

riccard0's picture

Unfortunately, Typophile mess up https links.
As a public service, here's a clickable version of the above link:

Thomas Phinney's picture

goloub's project sounds fabulous, but I will note that does not cover Chinese and Japanese.

There are very very few such typefaces in the world today. Mostly, it is a crazy huge amount of work. To ascertain what is available, you would have to define exactly what you consider to be the major world language/character sets. You mention Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I assume that you would include extended Latin and extended Cyrillic. Greek? Arabic? Hebrew? Indic languages (and which ones)?

You might find this a useful reference to some fonts that might help:
... although I will note that there are no particular criteria for what is included, as far as I can determine. It is an arbitrary set. But pretty much anything that meets your needs is probably in there, as well as a bunch of fonts which are no different from hundreds of others that are not in the list.

charles ellertson's picture

You don't consider the African languages tricky? IMO, support for CJK is far easier to find, especially since not all characters needed for many African languages have single Unicode codepoints assigned -- they require Latin characters plus the combining diacritics.

I'f anyone knows good examples, I'd be quite pleased to know of them.

hrant's picture

I think Thomas is talking about a single typeface system or is at least factoring in some deliberate visual harmony (which good typographers value). African languages are mostly Latin-based, so sort of automatically harmonize.


Thomas Phinney's picture

Well, two things:

1) The question was about a single typeface, and
2) The question was about any *major* world language

I did ask what constitutes “major.” I am quite certain that Chinese and Japanese would, as they were among the examples. I am not so convinced that the OP meant to include less widely supported African languages with that phrase.

I am pretty sure that getting CJK support in one coordinated typeface is a lot less common than support for minority African languages in an extended Latin typeface.

I also agree with Hrant and the OP that it is tricky to coordinate typographic feel across radically different writing systems.

charles ellertson's picture

Yes, many African languages are Latin based. Some are based on Arabic, and I'd imagine the support there is greater, but I do not know for sure.

Within the so-called (African) Latin-based writing systems, the alphabets of these languages are not fully supported by very many fonts. See Off the top of my head, only the SIL offerings of Gentium, Doulos, and Charis support Yoruba, Pan Nigerian, Swahili, Boko (writing system for Hausa) etc.

The sans Andika covers the several alphabets, but currently is available in roman only. If anyone knows of others, I'd be thrilled to know, and I'd think there would be some customers for such fonts.

Maybe the excuse is there aren't any "majority" African languages?

I think it was Thomas who, some time ago, remarked that when the alphabets are quite different, a variation in font design doesn't seem too distracting. That would be true for Latin versus CJK, but not the Latin versus Latin-based African languages, so maybe the final excuse is that from a commercial point of view, Africa isn't a large enough market to worry about.

Well, a danger of getting too far off-topic.

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