The humble beginnings of a Thai bitmap font

matteson's picture

Howdy. This is actually the first font I've shown on Typophile. It's not exactly a proper bitmap font just yet, but I wanted a bit of feedback before I pushed it any further. If anyone out there reads Thai, I'd be eternally indebted for any comments as to its general legibilty.

It's quite derivative of van Doesberg and such, and the headings are quite blatantly the very same.

Thanks all.

Nate


application/x-shockwave-flashSPECIMEN.SWF
SPECIMEN.SWF (8.0 k)

spiral's picture

for some reason i can't see .swfs linked from this board in my browser (Mozilla 1.2). I get a link to a file with a ".unk" extension, which shows up as gibberish in my browser. I can save to my harddrive, change the extension and see it, but i wonder whats producing that strange extension.

sorry for hijacking your thread, nathan,

matteson's picture

No problem. I'll try posting a .gif in a little while. Thanks for the heads up.

matteson's picture

No problem. I'll try posting a .gif in a little while. Thanks for the heads up.

capthaddock's picture

Nathan, I'm not a native but I read and speak a little Thai.

So far, what you have is pretty neat, and I think it's great to see westerners working on Thai fonts. I'd like to do a few myself. Here are a few comments:

Serifs: Thai, of course, has those little circles (I don't know the correct term) that begin the stroke, and are important in distinguishing letters. I think your typeface would benefit from indicating these with a more noticeable serif where they should be.

The Bangkok Bank's logotype (http://www.bbl.co.th/Bangkok+Bank/Main.htm) has a similar face, but theirs could use a small boost in legibility too, I think.

? & ? (kho rakhang & kho khuat): I think you're going to have to emphasize the upper-left part of these letters more. Give them more room, and the less you use the half-width strokes, the better, in my opinion.

? & ? (do dek & to tao): I think the "inner stems" of these letters actually need to extend inside the letters' counters more, and the left side should "bubble out" more if possible.

Some of these suggestions may apply to other letters too. Good work! I'd like to see more.

Paul

hrant's picture

> I read and speak a little Thai.

Heavy.

> those little circles (I don't know the correct term)

I think they're called "curlycues"... yeah, a highly scientific term.

BTW, you guys wanna see something petrifying?
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/thai_a.gif
That's an unretouched scan from a major daily newspaper.
Beauty and the freak-of-nature-sickshit-beast.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, Nathan, instead of putting up a GIF, try placing the SWF in a minimal HTML page: that seems to have worked for somebody else here recently.

hhp

matteson's picture

Thanks for the suggestions, Paul. I've been tweaking kho rakhang et al - trying to extend those strokes without creating enough space under them to graze herds of sheep. I'm sure there's a happy median somewhere. And, the more I look at it, I think you're right about the half-width strokes. They get pretty annoying. Once I get some revisions done this weekend, I'll throw up another image. BTW, I really like that no nu in Bangkok Bank.

Part of the impetus for starting work on Thai fonts is due to a friend of mine from Bangkok who was lamenting the dearth of good Thai language fonts. Both "modernist" display varieties (he's of the opinion that Thailand missed out on modernism almost entirely and went straight to glorious post-modernity) - and also decent bilingual faces. That is, other than Angsana and Cordia and whatever other crap comes bundled in Windows. In fact, what he wants is something along the lines of what you posted Hrant. Something without all the "curlicues." So I've also been working on another face (which I'll post sometime soon) that's supposed to work with Univers.

And if you're interested Paul, there are some good online papers about Thai characters by a computational linguist working at CRCL Bangkok.

Thanks again guys.

Nate

matteson's picture

Oh yeah...pardon my ignorance (I'm letterpress operating Luddite) but how do you "place a SWF in a minmal HTML page?"

N

hrant's picture

> what he wants is something along the lines of what you posted Hrant

If you mean the bottom one, tell him that's called Latinization, and it's Evil: if he's a proud Thai, he should instead work towards more cultural authenticity:
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_rome1.html
(Especially Page 3)

Getting rid of the curlycues isn't necessarily bad (although I'm pretty sure it would reduce readability, the way getting rid of serifs does in Latin), but wanting to imitate something like Univers too closely very much is.

hhp

capthaddock's picture

Hrant: When I was in Thailand this summer, I saw a fair amount of Evil Latinization like that on Thai brandnames - mostly housewares products that say "Look I'm Thai but I want to be American!"

On the other hand, there's some genuinely nice modern Thai typography to be seen. I'm still regretting the fact that I didn't have enough cash to buy a big book from the Bangkok airport bookstore on the history of commercial Thai typography.

Nathan: great link!

Paul

matteson's picture

Yeah, when I was in Thailand I saw quite a bit of "Latinization" - ranging anywhere from a scary Thai version of Westminster to some pretty nice modern typography. E.g., the Futura-looking labels on the phone booths in Chiang Mai. I wonder if that's mostly due to the monstrous sweep of the West into Asia, or if it might just be the evolution of their script. After all, English has come a long way from Lombardic script and blackletter.

Incidentally, somewhere in vast expanse of cyberspace, there's a 14MB .pdf file of a 400 page book (in Thai) that, I believe, is a treatise of some sort on Thai letter design. The last 250 pages are a huge collection of specimens of available Thai faces. For the life of me, I can't find the link to it, but if anyone's interested, I could burn a CD of it and toss it in the mail.

And I'll post another file soon of the revisions to this face.

Cheers.

hrant's picture

> I wonder if that's mostly due to the monstrous sweep of the West into Asia, or if it might just be the evolution of their script.

Well, both.
But "evolution" can often have bad effects - it needs to be managed. A writing system is an extremely powerful piece of cultural identity, and a homogenous gray world seems deathly boring, no?

On the other hand, it's a complex issue: there are certainly some good reasons to bring "modernism" to different parts of the world - it's enriching. But it does have to be done sensitively: in the sample I showed (the bottom line), the results are both overly harmful to Thai culture and dysfunctional as well: when a person who reads both Thai and some Latinate language sees that thing, it's just confusing.

--

Wow, that PDF you describe sound like a dream...
Why don't you just put it up on some site for us to download? Or use a service, like:
http://www.whalemail.com/

hhp

matteson's picture

Point taken.

I'll try to get that .pdf online this week - I'll let you know when it happens.

In the meantime, here are some revisions to this face.


application/x-shockwave-flashspecimen2.swf
specimen2.swf (5.6 k)


application/x-shockwave-flash
specimen2.swf (5.6 k)

Isaac's picture

i briefly looked at the two versions while i was at work,
and i noticed a couple of things. one was that i have no
idea what any of it was. i think that may have been a
good thing, since i couldn't trick myself into knowing
what a shape was without actually knowing. the only
specific forms i remember were the two that i posted,
one from the original, one from the revision. i can't
remember which one was which. the shape on the
left in the images is more legible (i think. remember,
i don't know what it's "supposed" to look like) because
of the more pronounced indent of the leg. there were
a few others that were similar, but i didn't have time
to look at them today. press day and all. so there's my two bits,
and mr. matteson knows how much that's actually worth.
nates1 nates2 nates3

matteson's picture

Hmm. I'll try to post a larger image of those two characters. In those images the second one definitely is approaching the zenith of illegibilty. Thanks for catching that.

hrant> Still working on getting that Thai Fonts .pdf online. Soon.

matteson's picture

So this is what those two characters (ko kai & pho samphao) should look like. The big ones are at 36 points, the smaller are at 15 pixels (there should be embedded 15ppem bitmaps).

Isaac: If you're interested in seeing the "traditional" Thai letterforms, here's a good (if generic) Thai alphabet from Unicode. Here's also a link to a paper about Thai character recognition by Doug Cooper of CRCL.

capthaddock's picture

Nathan, that document sheds a lot of light on how "modern" Thai fonts compromise the original shape. It would be interesting to see a modern face (like yours) that finds better ways of differentiating between similar letters.

By the way, I'm also very interested in seeing that PDF document when you get it online.

Paul

Isaac's picture

thank you, sir. more later. putting kids to bed and stuff.

Isaac's picture

zoinks. i can barely tell the difference between ru, tho thung, ko kai, kho khai, and kho khuat, at least from the unicode link i was looking at. this bitmap idea of yours is more challenging than i thought. apparently how the glyphs are read depends not so much on the mark but on where the mark is placed inside (or outside) of a certain shape, or even the length of a stem, kind of like we can tell the difference between a lowercase l and a lowercase i without a dot. at least i think this is what's going on. so, the difference between ko kai and tho thung doesn't need to be exaggerated. the question is whether a thai speaker would recognize a crooked leg or a nick out of the leg more easily. on screen at small sizes, the crooked leg jumps out more, but will it be recognized? any way, i'm starting to confuse myself.

as for our conversation the other day, well, anyone reading bitmapped thai text on their pda most likely isn't concerned with the cultural authenticity of the thing. imagine everyone in deutschland reading books that look like they came straight off of gutenberg's press, or romans carrying books made of stone with words chiseled into them. i'm not promoting global homogeneity, but everything has to evolve. the curlycues being replaced by dashes or whatever seems like the equivalent of serif vs. sans. we all know f is f. the evolution of thai faces may be more modernization than latinization. we aren't trapped in world of handwriting, neither should they be, so bravo on your efforts. i hope they like it chiang mai.

hrant's picture

> the question is whether a thai speaker would recognize a crooked leg or a nick out of the
leg more easily.

There's also the complication that being able to decipher a glyph when given many seconds and a direct gaze is little indication of what it contributes/detracts from immersive readability.

hhp

matteson's picture

OK. Here's some more changes. And it's actually rendered at 15 pixels.

And yeah, Isaac, I get pretty confused myself, not being much of a Thai speaker. You should see my friend Thasnai's handwriting - it's even more brutal than that Unicode chart.

Erm, I'm thinking that the "nick" works better than the "jog" to distinguish between ko kai and pho samphao. I'll put up another gif with the "jog" soon, but I just got done teaching, it's almost 6, I hear a beer calling my name.

thanks, guys.
15pix2

capthaddock's picture

Nathan, this is already looking a lot better, and I like the "mouths" you've given some of the letters.

Paul

jamesf's picture

Hi people.

Im currently in College and am doing a cultural identity for a city (Bangkok) as part of my Graphic design course. Im having a bit of a problem trying to find the words:
"Thailand
Bangkok"

In the appropriate Thai typeface. If anyone could put these words in the Thai typeface online it would be most appreciated.

I hope someone can help me out.

Thanks very much.

jamesf's picture

Hi people.

Im currently in College and am doing a cultural identity for a city (Bangkok) as part of my Graphic design course. Im having a bit of a problem trying to find the words:
"Thailand
Bangkok"

In the appropriate Thai typeface. If anyone could put these words in the Thai typeface online it would be most appreciated.

I hope someone can help me out.

Thanks very much.

hrant's picture

I made the Daam Entity after a trip to Bangkok.
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/f_brutaal.html
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/f_cristaal.html
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/f_dominava.html

I guess the essential form that inspired me (amplified by the amazing atmosphere of that unique city) was the ngao. But also things like this:
(120Kb) http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/bang.jpg

hhp

hawk's picture

so there's a story ...

matteson's picture

James: I can whip something up today after class - I'll post it here this afternoon.

matteson's picture

This should sort you out James. Let me know if you need anything else. Cheers.


application/pdf
Thai.pdf (314.8 k)

matteson's picture

Hmm. This PDF seems to crash my browser. Not sure if it has the same effect on you, but here are GIF's of "Bangkok" and "Thailand".

Bangkok:


Thailand 1:


Thailand 2:

matteson's picture

Ah, quite true. Thanks for that link, hhp. Incidentally, the last character in the shortened version (Krung Thep) is called pai yan noi, and it's used for abbreviation or ellipsis. So in the case, it stands for the rest of the ridiculously long name ;-) Sometimes though, you'll see "Bangkok" spelled with the first twelve letters (or thirteen if you're counting the under vowel on the second consonant).

matteson's picture

If you're interested James, The longer version (12 character: see below) of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon or "Metropolitan Bangkok". There's also a three letter version which is like "LA" or "NYC" (also below).

The two versions of "Thailand" that I posted above translate to (1) bpratheht Thai and (2) Thai. Bpratheht essentially means "country" or "nation," but in Thailand most of the signage uses the second version, as bpratheht is really a Western concept, not very Thai.

Krung Thep Mahanakhon


KTM

matteson's picture

>in Thailand most of the signage uses the second version

Actually, that's wrong. Government signage does in fact use bprathehtthai - the "official name." So for an identity project, that would be more appropriate. Sorry 'bout that.

tidchris's picture

SWFs do not post as easily as GIFs. More, if you translate *.unk into *.swf's, they are not replicated at original size, but at some browser-mazimizing size, destroying pixel lock. an associated HTML file helps, a GIF screen dump helps more. Not to say Flash compatibility is unimportant to prove - it's huge. Only, get Unicode compatible ASAP.
The unk/swf showed me a clear Thai on the grid, making me think of futurist Thai space travel, starring stars I have never seen.**I only know Thai from my local restaurants (in San Francisco, that is a reasonable taste).
Nathan, if you'd like to publish this font or a greyscale adaptation, please let me know. My eye cannot tell if it's been Latinized but I assume the damage is minimal.

tidchris's picture

[dupe deleted]

Jared Benson's picture

While in Flash, hit Shift-F12. I think that's the "Publish" command found under the File menu. It will build a simple HTML framework for your Flash movie.

Syndicate content Syndicate content