Looking for a decent pan-Asian typeface (not the cheesy kind)

fdpamintuan's picture

Hey guys!

I’m currently working on branding for an Asian city and I imagine the wordmark to have a modern, Western-friendly appeal, but with a subtle Asian warmth and sharpness to it.

ITC Symbol Std has caught my attention so far, but I’m really not comfortable with the varying thickness of the stems and the loops. Also, the thicker weights look nice but when it comes down to the lighter weights, the typeface looks odd.

I have also found Penumbra to be appealing although I wish it had more subtle serifs and available lowercase letters for the wordmark I’m designing.

I’m not sure if you guys have encountered something like this before, but if you can help suggest alternatives, I’d be eternally grateful!

riccard0's picture

From the title I thought you was looking for something like this: http://blog.typekit.com/2014/07/15/introducing-source-han-sans/

GrubStreet's picture

Does your logotype have to pair with Asian type? If so, what kind of Asian typeface would it be – Gothic (sans serif) or Mincho (serif)?


Source Han Sans may be a good candidate, like what my upstairs reply has written. Despite its wide coverage and weight options, however, I do not consider its CJK characters very well designed.

fdpamintuan's picture

Thank you for your suggestion. The wordmark will not go with any Asian typeface since the city, sadly, is no longer rooted on an Asian writing system. We use the regular Roman/Latin script instead.

Having said this, what I’m actually looking for is a modern, contemporary Latin script, serif or non-serif, that has subtle accents that gives it an Asian feel. Kind of like the typeface of “Thailand” in this photo:

Really sorry if I’m too particular about this. Any suggestion is welcome!

quadibloc's picture

An Asian city that is not currently rooted in an Asian writing system! I can understand why you cannot disclose your client, of course, but my knowledge of geography is telling me something isn't right here.

They haven't switched over to the Latin alphabet in Singapore, Macao, or Hong Kong - the only Asian cities I can think of that are not integral parts of nations that are very much using Asian writing systems (China, Japan, Korea).

The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia... they use the Latin alphabet to various extents. But the traditional writing systems of their languages are either the Arabic script, or an Indic script, not something related to Chinese characters.

Of course, an Indic script doesn't stop Tibet or Thailand from being Asian in character.

My worry is that if we give you the name of a typeface that tastefully evokes in a subtle manner Chinese characters, this may be a solecism, as they may not have anything to do with the cultural identity of the city in question.

And if it's "city branding" to the extent of being used in the city's subway stations, your latitude for decorative flourishes is limited by more than the dictates of taste.

GrubStreet's picture

According to your description I do believe that it is either a trap or an impossible mission.

First of all there is no "Asian feel" for Western typography – one can do his best to harmonize two writing systems, but cannot transfer the feeling of one system simply onto another. Or, at least, he can transfer a typeface's aura to another typeface. Trying to make it "feel Asian" is either stereotypical and caricatural – China for Tian'anmen and dragon, Japan for Mt. Fuji and Sun Flag, etc. – or impossible.

Second, there is a trap of using a style of Western typography from a certain period, i.e. the 1930s and the 1950s, to imitate the feeling of Western type in Asian countries at that time (these type would be similar to those that appear in old matchboxes exported to those Asian areas). But keep in mind that for many Asian countries, those days were the time of national defeat and colonialism. Trying to evoke the feeling of Western invasion and colonial rule certainly isn't something pleasant...

riccard0's picture

Fidel (fdpamintuan) is from the Philippines (or so it says his profile http://typophile.com/user/36837), and Filipino is written using the latin alphabet.
The right stylistic influence could be Baybayin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baybayin), but it probably would be at most nostalgic.
That said, there are other forms in which a typeface could give a “feel” of something without necessarily mimiking (or, as it seems the concern, parodying) a different writing system.
And, in this case that becomes a necessity, since, for me, pan-asian goes from the Urals to the Bering Strait, covering a large number of different scripts!

riccard0's picture

Fidel, back to your request, I think something that could cover your mention of warmth and sharpness is Exemplar: http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/autodidakt/exemplar/

More dated and conventional options could be Memo and Astoria:

quadibloc's picture

Come to think of it, in the case of the Philippines, matters are more complicated. Babayin, the original script for the Tagalog language, is indeed Indic.

Ah: only about a third of the people of the Philippines have Tagalog as their first language. Pilipino is the "standard register of Tagalog" - the country's formal official language. Oh, and there is also a Filipino language, aimed at replacing Pilipino. However, most of the people there speak, if not Tagalog, another closely-related language.

But people of Chinese and Japanese descent play a significant role in the society as well. English is the Philippines' other official language, and Spanish also has an influence.

Té Rowan's picture

As I recall, there are some latin faces, both commercial and not, that are based on writing-brush lettering.

http://www.dafont.com/korean-calligraphy.font is of Korean origin and may be more valid in Vietnam than Philippines. It is also the least stereotypical Far East style I recall having seen.

My Fair Cody, available from http://www.aboutletters.com/, is similar. Also Korean, IIRC.

Hideko, announced here (http://typophile.com/node/85907), is largely Latin but with a light touch of Far East.

And that's me wound dry on the subject, I think.

fdpamintuan's picture

Yup, good job finding out I’m from the Philippines! Baybayin, our ancient script, has long been discarded and it is no longer being used as a means of communication. We’ve been using the Latin alphabet for centuries and because of the dearth of design professionals that specialize in typographic design in my country, there isn’t really an effort to produce typefaces that are rooted in our culture (pre-colonial, colonial or contemporary).

It’s pointless if I scour the web for contemporary typefaces that are authentically Filipino. That’s why I’ve resorted to looking for Latin alternatives. I may have made a mistake of using the term “pan-Asian” since I realized our culture is just too diverse and complex.

I really appreciate the options riccard0 provided. They are more or less examples of what I was talking about.

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