Chinese Typography and Graphic Design

flare389's picture

Hey everyone,

I'm trying to find information about the history/styles of Chinese typography and graphic design. I'm also looking for blogs related to that topic. I've found some resources but I wanted to try "crowd-sourcing" to see if anyone knows of sites that I'm not aware of. I just launched a blog where I'm concentrating on advertising and design in China and Taiwan, it's a personal research project of sorts that I've been wanting to start for a while. So if you have anything that may help me, I'd be most grateful!

Caleb

www.designbrandchina.com

FeeltheKern's picture

Just posted this a second ago on another post, but Hoefler & Frere-Jones had a really good post on their blog this past week>> http://www.typography.com/ask/showBlog.php?blogID=80. Of course it doesn't go into much depth about Chinese script/typography or any other script, but it makes an interesting point about the differences between a Western notion of handwriting/typography and an Eastern one.

flare389's picture

Thanks FeeltheKern, interesting article.

mydot2001's picture

There are not many different fonts of Chinese characters due to the fact that the cost of developing Chinese characters is simply astronomical.

In my opinion, the best Chinese font is the calligraphy, which is not easy to convert into commercial fonts, but you still can find some calligraphic fonts.

On the other hand, I have seen some good Japanese typography (Some characters are the same as Chinese), which cannot be found in China.

You can check this out
http://blog.iso50.com/?p=572
http://blog.iso50.com/?p=594

Jongseong's picture

That's a vast topic since typography has a long history in China. Since you're concentrating on advertising and graphic design, would I be right to guess that your focus is on the last couple of centuries only?

The latest issue of Japan's Idea Magazine is devoted to contemporary Chinese book design.

How is your Chinese? Blogs like this might help.

Jongseong's picture

I have a question of my own. What do people think of the designs of Chinese ideograph (hanzi/hanja/kanji) fonts coming out of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and other scenes? Are there noteworthy country-specific trends? Who does the best Chinese ideograph fonts for display and for text?

I wonder what non-Koreans think of Chinese characters designed by Koreans, for instance in the Chosunilbo Myeongjo (used by the daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo) font whose sample appears below. The sample is a poem by Kim Sisŭp (1435-1493) called "Vagabond". The original hanja (Chinese characters) on the left, the Korean translation in hangul (Korean alphabet) on the right.

Is it even possible to detect a difference in the design of the Chinese ideographs from works by Chinese, Taiwanese, or Japanese teams?

akira1975's picture

Here are the same characters set in several famous Japanese fonts:

Left to Right (Upper): リュウミンR(Ryumin R), ヒラギノ明朝W3(Hiragino Mincho W3), イワタ明朝オールドR
Left to Right (Lower): 本明朝M(Hon Mincho M), 游明朝体R(Yu Mincho-tai R), 小塚明朝R(Kozuka Mincho R)

When I see Chinese fonts, I’m often surprised their characters are very different from those of Japanese fonts.

Jongseong's picture

In terms of glyph forms, I think Koreans prefer the four-stroke form of the grass radical (looking like ++). The three-stroke form is acceptable as a simplification, but the four-stroke form is considered proper. The only form of the walk radical (as in the character 過) that I've seen Koreans write is the one in the Korean font sample. That's the way we are taught to write it. The Korean form of 靑 (blue/green) has a lower part that looks like 円 instead of 月, at least the way I learnt it. But I think Koreans are used to reading the other forms that you find in Japanese fonts. I think Koreans find most Japanese forms perhaps odd but acceptable, and most people won't even notice the differences.

The forms I saw in China, though, took quite a bit of getting used to, and not just because Simplified Chinese is used. I caught differences in characters like 入 (enter) and 化 (become), which have forms that look almost wrong to Korean eyes. The character 天 (sky) is interesting, because the Chinese seem to use the form where the upper horizontal stroke is shorter than the lower one. Koreans write the character in the same manner, but are used to seeing the version with the longer upper stroke in print (maybe that's a Japanese thing?). I see though that Chosunilbo Myeongjo (the font I picked for the sample) has the version with the shorter upper stroke.

From what I can tell, they did a lot of research for Chosunilbo Myeongjo to pick glyph forms considered proper by Koreans. Because we use a lot of hanja designs imported from elsewhere (chiefly Japan), we are used to seeing a proliferation of variant glyph forms for hanja in print (which might explain some of my struggles with hanja).

I wonder how the current vogue in studying Chinese as a foreign language will influence the Korean preferences for certain hanja forms in the future.

flare389's picture

Wow, thanks for the response. I'll have to set aside some time to go through all of this.

@ Jongseong :

Your right, it is a vast topic. My blog will focus on more recent Chinese graphic design and advertising but it would help me to better understand it if I learn about the evolution it has gone through. Western graphic design has gone through periods that are specifically labeled, I am wondering if there are actual defined periods like this for East Asian graphic design? I am also curious about how Korean, Japanese, and Chinese design affect each other. Which country commands the most influence? I suspect it's Japan but I may be wrong.

As for my Chinese, reading is probably my weakest area, but reading Chinese blogs will only help me to fix that! What are your top ten Chinese design blogs?

http://www.calebkramer.com

mydot2001's picture

As a Chinese, I really feel that there are not sufficient fonts to choose from. All the samples above are based on Song style, also known as Ming style in Japan. There may be some variations and nuances, and I have to admit that I enjoy those subtleties. My favorite Chinese font remains this

Jongseong's picture

Caleb, I have to confess I know very little about Chinese graphic design, and rely on impressions gathered from several short visits and reports appearing on Korean magazines and blogs. There seem to be a lot of international design-related conferences going on that involve people from across East Asia, and there is growing interest here in the Chinese and Japanese design scenes.

There was very little cultural exchange in general between South Korea and China until the 1990s. So until recently, the Korean and Chinese design scenes were largely independent of each other. Japan had more of an influence, at least in type production. The earliest western-technology hangul type, designed by Choe Jihyeok for a Korean-French dictionary, was cut in Yokohama in 1880. Many of the important pre-digital era hangul types were cut (or produced for phototypesetting) in Japan, right up to the 1970s.

That is for type design technology, though, and I'm not sure how much of an influence there was on the content, or for other areas of graphic design. I can only offer impressions, but I'm sure the influence is there, if only through the familiarity bred by Japanese magazines and manga books that are widely available in Korea. Japanese books and magazines make up the second largest section of the foreign books sections of large Korean book stores.

I'm sorry I'm not able to answer more about graphic design and advertising since my interests tend to be focused on type design. I don't know any Chinese design blogs; I just turned that one up through searches. Then there is the language and script barrier between the three countries, which one has to keep in mind before overestimating the influence the design scenes have on each other. I'm feeling a bit guilty, because this thread made me realize just how little I know about the design scenes of our neighbours. Maybe it's not just me and Korean designers are mostly oblivious to developments in China and Japan. (Then again, maybe they religiously consult the latest Japanese design annuals.)

As for periods in East Asian graphic design, the only thing I can think of right now is for calligraphy. If you want a history of the different styles of calligraphy throughout the different dynasties of China, I can do some research. It will take some time, though.

Jongseong's picture

Yifei, what is that style called? In Korea we would just call it haeseo (楷書), so would it be kaishu in Chinese? Or does that just refer to the style of calligraphy? And what font is that?

I love this style as well. It's easily the most legible of the calligraphic styles for us, because we are so familiar with it. Whenever we need hanja for display uses, I prefer to use a face in that style. Some time ago we had some hanja printed on envelopes with such a face.

Because the most popular hangul text faces have calligraphic brush stroke finishes, I've never been completely satisfied with the Song (or Ming) style Chinese text faces that often accompany them. But the kaishu style (if that is what it's called) doesn't seem to have the right proportions for use in small texts, with small counters and less squarish forms. As a native reader, what do you think of this style in running text? Have there been any attempts to develop text faces not in the Song style (besides sans serifs)?

flare389's picture

Thanks for all the information on typography, I'm going to look through it more this weekend. Is there any chance anyone can point me towards other design forums that I may find answers about Chinese advertising and graphic design?

Thanks,

Caleb

http://www.calebkramer.com

Oisín's picture

Yifei, what is that style called? In Korea we would just call it haeseo (楷書), so would it be kaishu in Chinese? Or does that just refer to the style of calligraphy?

楷书 is indeed kǎishū in Mandarin, and it refers to a particular style of calligraphy, though it’s so predominant that it’s dubious whether it’s appropriate to think of it as just ‘a style’ of calligraphy. Its English name is Regular Script (or Normal Script—it also has plenty of other names). Wikipedia has a fairly good 楷书 article on the topic.

The computer typefaces based on Regular Script are also called 楷书 in Chinese.

 

In terms of glyph forms, I think Koreans prefer the four-stroke form of the grass radical (looking like ++). The three-stroke form is acceptable as a simplification, but the four-stroke form is considered proper.

In China, the four-stroke version of the 草字头 was officially abolished with the advent of the First Simplified Character Scheme. It’s still used occasionally in more exuberant, ‘flowing’ typefaces, but only in traditional characters (which the more exuberant calligraphic scripts tend to be, anyway).

 

The only form of the walk radical (as in the character 過) that I’ve seen Koreans write is the one in the Korean font sample. That’s the way we are taught to write it.

This form is also seen in China, but is also associated with traditional characters. It is seldom used among simplified characters. It is quite commonly written that way in handwriting, though. The regular form in Mainland China, 辶, is merely a further simplification of 辵 chuò, from which the character derives (ultimately from a character written something like 彳止亍 (a 止 inserted into the middle of a 行).

 

The Korean form of 靑 (blue/green) has a lower part that looks like 円 instead of 月, at least the way I learnt it. But I think Koreans are used to reading the other forms that you find in Japanese fonts. I think Koreans find most Japanese forms perhaps odd but acceptable, and most people won’t even notice the differences.

円 would perhaps be the more logical development here, but the Chinese development of 月 is also not far-fetched. 青 is, of course, from 生 and 丹 originally, and the 点 in 丹 has merely become a 横, rather than a 竖, in the Chinese form of the character. (Notice how this is also the case in the composite character 静, both in the Korean and the Japanese typefaces—I wonder why this particular 点 has developed in two different ways, apparently according to the complexity of the character, in Korean and Japanese.)

To me, though, the Korean 有 that has a 撇 as its third stroke, rather than a 竖, simply looks... odd. Very odd. I can imagine how you feel when you see Mainland Chinese typefaces where half the characters are somehow ‘wrong’ like that.

 

The forms I saw in China, though, took quite a bit of getting used to, and not just because Simplified Chinese is used. I caught differences in characters like 入 (enter) and 化 (become), which have forms that look almost wrong to Korean eyes.

With 入, I assume you refer to the calligraphy-like style that looks merely like a reversed 人, without the ‘hook’ (dare one call it a serif? :-P) at the top? Both styles are in equally common use in China.

In the case of 化, the main difference seems to be that in China (and Japan?), the upside-down 人 has morphed into the unique shape

Jongseong's picture

Thank, Janus, for your in-depth contribution! I think it's fair to say that Korean hanja forms tend to be quite conservative, especially compared to the character forms in China. Hanja has fallen out of everyday use a long time ago in Korea, so it makes sense that Koreans use 'fossilized' forms while the glyph forms continue to evolve in China.

Also, Koreans don't learn much about cursive or shorthand forms of Chinese characters, which seem to be the base of a lot of alternate forms in China and Japan.

I didn't even notice that the Korean 有 form was significantly different from the other examples until you pointed it out. For me, it's just a stylistic variation, just like the two different and equally acceptable forms of the hangul vowel ㅠ (yu) where the left vertical stroke may be either straight or curved. It's good to learn that the Korean form looks so odd to you.

It looks like an opportunity is there for some team to do the research into country-specific forms and to develop a Chinese OpenType font with the appropriate alternates so that you can set culturally-appropriate Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters with a single monster font family. If there is indeed a team combining the international expertise and the ability to put in ridiculous amounts of man-hours... One can dream, right?

Kunihiko_Okano's picture

I'm really curious about this topic. I don't have enough time to go over this thread now but I'd like to come back as soon as possible.

Oisín's picture

It looks like an opportunity is there for some team to do the research into country-specific forms and to develop a Chinese OpenType font with the appropriate alternates so that you can set culturally-appropriate Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters with a single monster font family. If there is indeed a team combining the international expertise and the ability to put in ridiculous amounts of man-hours... One can dream, right?

That would indeed be quite the font. One could have national varieties as simple stylistic sets.

Kunihiko_Okano's picture

I read an article that Akira Kobayashi of Linotype attended a type design competition in Shanghai as a jury last year. According to his blog, he thought that designing typeface skills in China would improve in a few years judging from the winning piece of works. Especially, type designers who had calligraphy skills designed good works.

After I read his blog, I've been curious about the latest type design in China. Of course, the one in Korea too. And maybe some of Japanese typeface designers aren't aware of the development of type design in China. As Brian mentioned, I have little chance to know about the design scenes of my neighbors. I got the Idea magazine No.307 that featured Graphic design in Korea to know about type design in Korea few years ago, which was the only stuff that I was able to know about design scenes of Korea. And also I bought the latest issue of Idea magazine No.327 that featured "Book design today in China." Both issues are very interesting. I felt that there are some similarity between China and Korea but I found its originality in every work. I like the works that is a mixture taste of traditional and modern. I don't know how is the Japanese design because I'm in Japan. Maybe, it is easy to understand it from outside of Japan. In order to obtain the latest situation in Japan, you can also see Akira Yoshino's flickr photos from here. I think this library covers several categories such as posters, signage and billboards in Japan.

I attended TypeCon 2007 Seattle last year, but there was no presentation concerned about East Asia area language except Robert Bringhurst's great one. Meanwhile, the speaker who showed about Arabic were really enthusiastic. So the audience seemed to be interested in their presentations. After the conference, I thought it was important to introduce the CJK type design to the people who lives in the other language area.

mydot2001's picture

To Jongseong

Sorry for replying so late at this point. Yes, you are right about the it. It's 楷体. It doesn't fit into the era that we are in, but still it's very classy. It is based on the stand calligraphic style which I was learning when I was young.

宋体 is also another classy font, but apart from being used in texts, it has little presence in other forms, partly due to the fact that when it gets enlarged, the strokes are not bold enough to be legible enough. Of course, there are some improvements out there, but maybe being a serif font makes it not that popular.

The current trend is using more sans font. 黑体 is the most used font now as far as I can see. 黑体 in Konghong is much bolder than the one in Mainland, which shows the creativeness when it comes to types in Hongkong. I kind of like bolder version of 黑体.

But as a whole, the design scene is China doesn't care about the types. Even the great designers ignore the types, which quite spoils everything. I feel sick seeing those ugly fonts used on the streets. Even the fonts used in the Olympic slogan is hideous in a way that it's so predictable as if it had been chosen randomly in Word.

The good thing is that everyday I see more different Chinese fonts appearing everywhere, which were quite non-existent. I still don't know the name yet.

Oisín's picture

I agree with nearly all of that, except the part about liking the bolder 黑体.

In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Chinese sans-serif text face that I’ve liked—or perhaps, I’d better limit that to 黑体-style faces, since there are some subtly seriffed faces that look quite good, despite being almost sans. Some of the more ‘fun’ display faces are okay, but they’re hardly usable as text fonts.

If only there weren’t so much work involved in creating a full CJK font, I’m sure the development of more and different faces would go far quicker.

Jongseong's picture

I've been looking at the
Wikipedia articles
on the Song (宋体)/Ming typeface. The picture that accompanies the Chinese version of the article seems to be an early printed sample, although there seems to be no more information on it.

I think my problem with Song-style faces is that they often have spindly, thin horizontals and exaggerated triangular serifs, resulting in a harsh look, especially printed on glossy paper. This sample makes me think these features were originally introduced to compensate for ink gain in the past, because the forms in the sample are much warmer and more graceful than what I am used to seeing. I'd like to see a return to this sensibility in text faces.

The article mentions the Imitation Song style (仿宋体) faces, which I didn't know about. I'm curious about their role in Chinese typography. Are they acceptable text faces? Are they used in conjunction with Song style faces, maybe like italics are used in conjunction with roman faces?

In China, I think I saw a lot of sans faces with round forms or rounded corners. We don't see a lot of fun Chinese display faces at all in Korea, so they were really interesting to see, and I'm glad more different designs are appearing. But as Janus (Oisín) said, I don't see them or any sans faces really working for text.

Speaking of heavy sans faces, what do people think of TDC2 2008 winner Logo Jr Black, probably the blackest Chinese face I've seen?

Oisín's picture

«The article mentions the Imitation Song style (仿宋体) faces, which I didn’t know about. I’m curious about their role in Chinese typography. Are they acceptable text faces? Are they used in conjunction with Song style faces, maybe like italics are used in conjunction with roman faces?»

Just to make sure we’re on the same page here (since you mention being unfamiliar with the term), this is a (very quick ’n’ dirty) sample text of STFangSong, OS X’s default Imitation Song face.

Imitation Song faces are sometimes used much like italics are used in Western type, for names, quotes, titles, &c. They are often used as regular text faces, too, though I’m not really sure if this is considered ‘proper’ by knowledgeable Chinese typographers. Text set in Imitation Song faces will then often use either a sans-serif face or an actual Song face for the ‘italic’ function, although actual italics (which are of course not actual italics, but false, computer-generated italics) are becoming increasingly common, despite looking ghastly. The Chinese script was not meant to be digitally slanted.

 

«Speaking of heavy sans faces, what do people think of TDC2 2008 winner Logo Jr Black, probably the blackest Chinese face I’ve seen?»

I have to say I rather dislike it. Heavy sans faces work somewhat better for Japanese in general, since the interspersion and mixture of kana and kanji gives the overall text a lighter and less stroke-heavy look than is the case for Chinese; but even for Japanese, I think this face is too thick. Not only a display font, but a display font only suitable for headings of no more than around 8–10 characters, to my eyes.

Jongseong's picture

Thanks for the sample and the info on imitation song faces, Janus. I'll be interested to hear what Chinese typographers have to say on this topic as well.

The Chinese script was not meant to be digitally slanted.

Indeed. I see Korean faces being digitally slanted all the time and it drives me mad, though I suspect hangul responds a bit better to slanting than the Chinese script.

Not only a display font, but a display font only suitable for headings of no more than around 8–10 characters, to my eyes.

Of course, for Koreans, seeing even eight Chinese characters in a row is a lot and a cause of instant headaches. :) I think Koreans are also tolerant of thick sans serif Chinese faces. A main use would be in newspaper headlines, many of which might contain just a single Chinese character.

Oisín's picture

For Korean headlines, I can imagine it might work. Though stroke-heavier than the Japanese kana schemes, Hangul is still far more overseeable and lighter than continuous hanja/kanji/hànzì/characters.

I would love to see what cuàn or bèng look like in that font, though. I’m not even sure OS X’ built-in (poor) Simplified Chinese input system allows me to type those out. 爨 – ah, what do you know, it does work with cuàn. Not so with 䨻 bèng, though.

Just so people don’t have to enlarge font sizes on the page seventeen times to see more than little blobs where those two characters are, a bigger sample:

flare389's picture

Has anybody seen this Wikipedia entry on Gothic typefaces in East Asia? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_gothic_typeface

Gothic is apparently the equivalent of sans serif in East Asian typography and is classified even further into round and square sans. Those two categories also have a couple variants: overlapping and new book.

flare389's picture

I found some promising resources on Chinese typography at http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1636_chinadesignnow/educational... .

Download the PDF under "Further Reading"

It has a list of books and journal entries

John Hudson's picture

Those in the UK during the next four months, might be interested in visiting the 'China Design Now' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1636_chinadesignnow/

flare389's picture

That wikipedia post also has some good information on East Asian fonts used on Mac and Windows

flare389's picture

Hey I was hoping someone could answer a question for me. Since calligraphy is such an important art form in China I was wondering what people think of modern experimentation with Chinese character forms. Overall is it considered atrocious or is it welcomed?

Kunihiko_Okano's picture

I think some of graphic designers and web designers are always looking for a new style fonts except Mincho and Gothic.
There are some experimental type design such as Logo Jr. Black and Shotenmaru, which designs are award winning type designs of TDC and are used for commercial media.
It is hard to develop new type faces quickly because CJK fonts have at least 7,000 characters, but there is an experimental type design project. The fonts released by Font 1000 project have only 1,000 characters. So the type designer can develop a new and unique style font in a shorter time than making 7,000 characters. It is difficult to use them for a body text as they have only 1,000 characters, but you can use them for Titling, Logotype and Display.
I'm afraid this is a topic in Japan but I would like to know the situation in China.

flare389's picture

These are a couple pretty cool examples of cutting edge Chinese typography. I pulled them off Wieden + Kennedy's Shanghai blog.

Nike Ad

Converse Ad

Eyedunno's picture

I happened upon this thread by accident and felt compelled to reply. Apologies for resurrecting it for the second time.

JongSeong:
My feeling is that different CJK-using cultures have bastardized the characters in different ways over time, and talking about "correctness" is futile.

In Japan, the character 拝 is used, as opposed to the more historically-correct Chinese 拜. On the other hand, Japanese stroke order is more in tune with classical forms than any other CJK country. For example, 右 is written with the sloping stroke first in Japan, which reflects the oracle-bone form better than the more intuitive stroke order used in other countries.

I know very little about hanja in Korean, but from what you posted, I will say that while most of that stuff looks fine (though the typeface design itself seems a little limp), 過 and 遊 indeed look funny. I would guess that this is a Korean bastardization; it looks like somebody mixed up the radicals for 進 and 延.

And mainland China is, of course, guilty of the most hanzi tomfoolery with all its rounds of ugly simplification. I suspect 天 with the top stroke shorter is another product of the mainland, though I can't be sure about that. Note however that Microsoft's MingLiU font for traditional Chinese has the top stroke longer (though confusingly, the newer JhengHei font has the top shorter).

Anyway, I believe there is already a system of putting lots of variant forms into fonts, and it's called Unicode. I personally think it would be pointless to take things further than Unicode already does, as a lot of the things mentioned are stylistic preferences that don't change the fundamental legibility of the script, and as such, Koreans using a made-in-Korea Unicode font seems like it would be just fine. But the grass radical written with either three or four strokes is not unheard-of in either China or Japan (艹, 艹, and 艹 are all radical forms of 艸), and neither is 靑. Even in Japan, the less familiar forms are sometimes chosen as a stylistic gesture. Also note that both 青 and 靑 have separate Unicode code points, and both variants should be found in any decent kanji/hanzi dictionary and in most Chinese and Japanese fonts (though Microsoft's Korean fonts only seem to have the latter, hrmph).

akira1975:
I really like to see kana when judging a Japanese mincho font though. は/ほ/け, を, う, ら, and く in particular say a lot about a given typeface, as does the size of the kana compared to that of the kanji.

mydot2001:
Actually, Song is known as Mincho (明朝 "Ming Dynasty") in Japan and Ming in Taiwan. From what I've heard, this is because, while the face is a product of the Song Dynasty, it really gained prominence in the Ming Dynasty.

Eyedunno's picture

Oh, one more thing to add that just occurred to me. Tonbo, the Japanese word for dragonfly, is rendered in kanji as 蜻蛉, with 靑 to the right of 虫 as the only possibility, but just about every common character normally uses 青 (though, as I said above, 靑 is still seen occasionally). So I guess Japanese is all mixed up.

And since I'm doubleposting, I might as well give some input to the OP, old thread or not. There are several basic Chinese script types commonly used:
1) Song/Ming (宋 or 明) - Previously mentioned, this is the Chinese equivalent to a serif face, and is used for similar purposes.
2) Hei/Gothic (黑 or Gothic) - A Chinese sans serif.
3) Regular script (楷書) - Standard brush-written script
4) Cursive script (草書) - Script where even complicated characters can be written with a single brush stroke. Looks like squiggles to most people, so it's not very useful for anything but decoration.
5) Semi-cursive script (行書) - Has the flowing beauty of cursive script with most of the legibility of regular script.
6) Clerical script (隸書) - the predecessor to regular script, and still used for its stylish yet very clear appearance.
7) Seal script (篆書) - As the name suggests, this is used for carved personal seals (as in stamps). Normally straight strokes tend to be heavily curved, and examples of this can be extremely complicated (to frustrate potential counterfeiters).
8) Oracle bone script (甲骨文) - As far as I'm aware, this is the oldest Chinese writing, and most of the characters still look like pictograms. This is pretty much used only for decoration, and rarely at that.
9) Bronze script (金文) - Used in ancient China on cast bronze. The earliest examples resemble Oracle bone script, while later examples anticipate seal script. Modern versions of bronze script have a tall, thin, and slightly warped appearance, which can be used for anything from a refined, high-class look to a spooky look. Here's an example:


10) Edomoji (江戸文字) - Japanese styles that came into use a few hundred years ago, but can now be seen in other countries and in Chinese computer fonts as well. Most of these are very heavy faces. I think the most common type of Edomoji today is Kanteiryu (勘亭流). Wiki Edomoji (or any of these) if you're curious.

There are also numerous pop faces that have come around in recent years, and I'd say that most are stylized variants of Gothic faces.

Jongseong's picture

Interesting to hear that the Japanese stroke order is the most classical. I had a Japanese friend in university who would always laugh when she saw me write Chinese characters because my stroke order was all wrong. That's probably because my stroke order is wrong by any standard, though, including Korean. Since most Koreans of my generation don't really ever write Chinese characters, we don't bother to learn the correct stroke order.

For your amusement, here are four Korean designs of the same character 過. From left to right, they are (1) Chosunilbo Myeongjo (a sample of which I posted earlier), (2) Batang, (3) Sinmyeong Gungseo, and (4) #Gungseo.

To my Korean eyes, (2) has the most recognizable form of the radical for print, and (3) is the preferred form for handwriting. I've already commented on (1), as has Eyedunno, and frankly (4) is just bizarre.

Eyedunno's picture

I'll go ahead and give two examples of the stroke order thing. Here's an composite image from scans I made of my kanji dictionary that should make this easier to explain:

I already mentioned 右. This is written the same as 左 in Japanese, but going back to the bronze and seal scripts, it should be easy to see that the hand should be drawn first, followed by the arm, which cuts through. Incidentally, 有 is written with the same initial stroke as 右, since the top part represents a right hand.

必 is trickier to explain. While in classifying the character, 心 (heart) is treated as the radical, the original character had nothing to do with a heart. It's a forked stick held down to two stakes with a rope. This sense of "tied down" thus connects to the current meaning of "necessary" or "must". In Japan, this is still reflected in the stroke order, where the stick is drawn first, then the rope, then the stakes.

But really, Chinese (and apparently Korean, according to the one Korean I've asked) stroke orders are designed to be more practical for education, while Japanese stroke order stays closer to old forms for the benefit of calligraphers. So it ultimately boils down to two different ways of thinking, and each is correct, in a sense.

And yeah, I agree that (4) is strange, as, from what I've heard, the part underneath the dot in the handwritten form IS the second dot; it's just connected. In Japan, the usual standard is to omit the second dot, even in print forms. This seems to be true of simplified Chinese fonts as well. Here are some Japanese Mincho (Song/Ming) and Kaisho (Regular) fonts:

lunde's picture

The recent posts to this thread have struck a few nerves, and I mean that in a good sense. In other words, Eyedunno has raised several key issues related to ideographs.

One issue is that of simplified forms. Conventional wisdom states that China has embraced this, which is correct. But, Japan has as well, but not nearly to the same degree as in China. In fact, they share many of the same simplified forms, such as 国 (U+56FD) for 國 (U+570B). But, there are some for which only Japan standardized a simplified form, such as 黒 (U+9ED2) for 黑 (U+9ED1).

The interesting thing about simplified forms is that they result in a more complex world. In effect, they add to the total number of characters, and to some extent has the opposite effect. Of our CJK fonts, our Simplified Chinese ones have significantly more glyphs than for other CJK locales.

The other is the notion of correctness. It is absolutely correct that any attempt to do so is somewhat futile. Each locale that has adopted ideographs as part of their writing system has modified it for their own use. I am reluctant to use the word bastardize in this context, but it is fairly accurate. Vietnam, Japan, and Korea have even coined their own ideographs, and a small number were borrowed back by the Chinese, such as 腺 (U+817A). Getting back to the notion of correctness, Japan is currently struggling with this in their attempt to update the Joyo Kanji list. The current Joyo Kanji list is built on principles, one of which is that the forms are simplified. Some of the kanji that they plan to add are from the NLC (National Language Council) Kanji set, which was defined in 2000 and contains 1,022 characters. This set uses the traditional forms. It's a balancing act between simplified and so-called correctness.

I predicted that in 25 years or so, genuine unification is likely to take place, and the catalyst for this is Unicode. Today, a single CJK Unified Ideograph code point may require more than one glyph in order to display the character as intended for each locale that uses it. Given enough time, mainly for the current generation to grow old and pass on, the distinctions that are considered important today are likely to become unimportant in the future. As communication mediums improve, the world gets smaller. That, along with the tendency for things to simply, will cause this to happen.

I could go on and on...

Dr. Ken Lunde
Senior Computer Scientist, CJKV Type Development
Adobe Systems Incorporated
lunde@adobe.com

Jongseong's picture

Plenty of good points here to mull over.

I predicted that in 25 years or so, genuine unification is likely to take place, and the catalyst for this is Unicode.

I think a lot will depend on the handful of foundries are responsible for producing CJK fonts that are likely to be used by the wider public. I would guess that compared to the innumerable designers and foundries contributing to the development of latin fonts, the producers of CJK fonts are far fewer in number.

I could see this going in either direction. CJK unification could be accelerated by more exchange and collaboration between outfits from different countries, as type designers will try to come up with single forms that will please the mainland Chinese as well as the Japanese, Korean as well as the Taiwanese. Then again, type designers might choose to emphasize the national differences, even to the point of creating differences where there really weren't any before. In any case, it might be a handful of people that end up determining the future of CJK font production.

Eyedunno's picture

Wow! The fact that they're expanding the Joyo Kanji list is news to me. It looks like they've chosen good characters to add and get rid of, too, except that 鬱 will go from a "can you write this?" challenge character (like 薔薇) to something that middle-schoolers will be expected to read and write. Oh well, good. :)

Given enough time, mainly for the current generation to grow old and pass on, the distinctions that are considered important today are likely to become unimportant in the future.

Yeah, I agree with this.

I could see this going in either direction. CJK unification could be accelerated by more exchange and collaboration between outfits from different countries, as type designers will try to come up with single forms that will please the mainland Chinese as well as the Japanese, Korean as well as the Taiwanese. Then again, type designers might choose to emphasize the national differences, even to the point of creating differences where there really weren’t any before. In any case, it might be a handful of people that end up determining the future of CJK font production.

I don't really see either of these happening.

On one hand, there's little incentive to make truly unified forms, since memory and hard disk space are cheap enough that all modern OSes, and even portable devices like iPods, include fonts for all four CJK schemes. I suppose it could be attempted as a cost-cutting move, but if the product doesn't sell, then cutting costs isn't worth it. Besides, I don't know too much about type design, Asian or otherwise, but would imagine that a large part of an East Asian type designer's job is piecing together elements rather than making 10,000 characters completely from scratch. To change 認識 to 认识seems like it would only require adding 人 and 只 to 讠 and fiddling a bit with the proportions of the elements. If I'm right about this, then, for example, converting a Traditional Chinese face to a Simplified Chinese one would be a lot easier than making a whole new Simplified Chinese face.

And type designers try to sell their work to the public, so I can't see them making a concerted effort to create new peculiarities that stay confined to their country of origin (AND having it sell). What COULD happen is that a quirky design could become popular in one country, but not in the others. Even this seems unlikely though, given how quickly the same pop faces move, say, from Japan to China (with adaptations, of course).

Ken's prediction that the differences will just be less important seems much more plausible.

長江上的椅子小烏龜's picture

Traditional characters tend to look better in typography. Here is a blog post I found that explains this (in Chinese):

http://www.andymao.com/andy/post/49.html

Briefly, it notes that simplified Chinese characters have less variation in density and can therefore look quite dull. For example:

心臟,醫生 (traditional Chinese)

心脏,医生 (simplified Chinese)

What do you think about this?

hrant's picture

If that's "dull", what about Latin?! :-)

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
If that's "dull", what about Latin?! :-)

I think they mean that printed Chinese on the page has a monotone appearance, like Latin text in all caps, as opposed to normal text, mostly in lowercase, with ascenders and descenders. But it has variations of its own - simpler characters with heavy strokes and complex characters with fine strokes.

hrant's picture

Actually it sounds like it's a comparison of Traditional vs Simplified.

hhp

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