comments on multi-script type?

newhere's picture

I am curious what people think about the designing of multi-lingual scripts (i.e typographic matchmaking).

Is there perhaps a dialectic at work? I mean that while on the one hand the designing of multi-script families seems to be a way of visually representing rising multi-culturalism and the displacement of peoples of different backgrounds.
An appeal in type for harmony in the "Contact Zone"!?
But then could economic factors be brought to bear on this as well (i.e. multi-script design perhaps reflecting a convergence with purely capitalist interests, using the vision of cultural harmony as smokescreen??).

Although it seems to be a developing area I'd also sure like to know about historical precedents of scripts being designed side by side.
Is this the future of type design? Where does it lead?
(and pardon if my words be poorly formulated)

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hi newhere,

there is some interesting reading on different scripts, typographic matchmaking and related OpenType features: Peter Rosenfeld (URW++) on ‘Global Fonts’ [PDF, 7.8mb]
It’s in German, but that should be no problem as it mainly consists of letterforms, statistics etc.

Si_Daniels's picture

Might want to look at the ClearType Collection fonts and the booklet "Now Read This" - the book has details of how each typeface was conceived from the get go to support a pan-European glyph and feature set.

Apart from that there should be material online around the idea that for a duo-script font, say one supporting English and Armenian, you need to produce two versions, one for use when Armenian is the dominant script used in a document and one for use when English is the dominant language.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Sometimes the desire to serve the needs of the world is a cover for capitalist interests, but I suspect just as often the capitalist interests are a cover for a desire to serve the needs of the world.

Or perhaps it's just a good thing that sometimes the two of them coincide, no?



dezcom's picture

Of all the type designers I have met, I don't believe I have ever met one with overriding capitalist interests. There just isn't enough money to be made in the field to satiate that kind of desire. I think they just like the challenge of multiscript work and love the look of the several alphabets they work with. It is more like they thought, "I wonder what this face would look like in Cyrillic?" rather than, "I'll bet I can rake in big bucks from those Ruskies if I do a Cyrillic version, too.":-)

They just do it for the love of letters.


cuttlefish's picture

It's certainly not in the interest of making money that I have included Cyrillic, Greek, and Cherokee along with very broadly applied Latin in the font I'm working on, but I sure wouldn't mind it.

david h's picture

> There just isn’t enough money to be made....

just myth.

cuttlefish's picture

But there must be money to be made in Russia, what with that billionaires' convention and all going on in Moscow and stuff.

dezcom's picture

I didn't say that there was no money to be made, I just meant that the truly greedy person will find ways to make money much faster in ways that are more lucrative than designing multiple script typefaces.


Jongseong's picture

You might want to look at typeface design in Japan, where to serve the needs of the Japanese written language, one needs to produce designs for hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romaji (the Latin alphabet), not to mention Arabic numerals, that work together in text. A Japanese newspaper article will often require all of these different scripts to work seamlessly. Is it multiculturalism or capitalism at work? Hard to say. Perhaps a willingness to represent different origins in Japanese vocabulary through different scripts is at work here, although it's certainly more complicated than that.

In Korea, hangul (the Korean alphabet) and Chinese characters tended to be used together in the past because of the prestige of the difficult-to-learn Chinese characters, but 99% of the texts produced today are written exclusively in hangul. Typefaces for Korean use are designed to include hangul (Korean alphabet) and Latin as a minimum requirement. Most Korean type designs don't include Chinese characters to match the hangul, since the time and/or design expertise they require isn't usually available. The understanding is that one can choose from the handful of those fonts that include Chinese characters to match the hangul design.

I wonder whether in the future, Korean type designers who want to include Chinese characters will find it desirable to collaborate with Japanese and other non-Korean designers who have more expertise and manpower in producing Chinese characters.

Because of the different scripts required and the sheer volume of work in producing kanji alone (several thousands glyphs are needed), type design in Japan is already largely a collaborative process, even in the age of font-design software.

For a fascinating example of such collaborative efforts that pool the expertise of designers working in different scripts, take a look at the recent Typographic Matchmaking Project that brought together Dutch and Arab designers to produce Arabic designs to harmonize with existing faces by Dutch designers.

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