Font Aid V: Made For Japan

Grant Hutchinson's picture

The Society of Typographic Aficionados is organizing Font Aid V: Made For Japan, a project uniting the typographic and design communities with a goal of raising funds to expedite relief efforts after the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We hope to be able to complete something akin to the Font Aid IV: Coming Together typeface, which was created to benefit the victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Update! The project theme and submission guidelines have been posted.

Update! The typeface now has a name … “Made For Japan”

Thanks in advance for your help.

— Grant

blank's picture

Sakura-themed fleurons and borders could work.

Also, I can't do much this week as I've got a full itinerary and am on the wrong side of the planet, but if you need help with anything after 3/19 drop me line at

matt_yow's picture

why not ampersands again? there can be far more than just 26 or 52 glyphs.
either way, I want to help out & be a part!

Anthony Noel's picture

How about ornamental initials?

Grant Hutchinson's picture

I really like the idea of a cherry blossom motif, provided the fleuron-esque theme doesn’t overlap the Font Aid III: Fleurons of Hope project too much. We’d really like to keep each of the Font Aid themes as distinct as possible, giving the contributors an opportunity to create fresh imagery.

The ampersands were incredibly successful for last year’s Font Aid project, but we want to push into new visual territory if we can. There is so much Japanese iconography available, even something as simple as the circle. For example, see the work presented on Rene Wanner’s Poster Page and Dribbble.

Would you see contributors creating whatever initial they choose, or does it make sense to limit the characters to a specific set, such as … “J”, “A”, “P”, and “N”, for example?

riccard0's picture

Maybe emoticons/emoji? They’re heavily used by Japanese and recently added to Unicode, too.

(by the way, I was really hoping there would be a Font Aid for this)

blank's picture

I think the sakura theme could be pretty distinct as long as contributors are asked to stay away from more traditional

Due to a lack of software/OS support emoticons/emoji could be a problem from a technical standpoint if we use the new unicode values. But they could all just be inserted into other slots.

riccard0's picture

I thought they simply will be inserted in more common slots (as for the ampersands). More so, since it would be difficult (and maybe even counter-productive) to force each design to target a single different emoticon.
I mentioned the recent adoption by Unicode just because now they’re acknowledged as single glyphs.
Also, since there are still few examples, it would add to the effort a role of inspiration.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

@riccardoThe idea of riffing on the style of emoji is an very interesting idea. However, I agree with you that we wouldn’t want to try to assigning each participant a specific Unicode glyph to complete. However, there are enough emoji characters to go around … the variety of submissions could be quite phenomenal.

@james The sakura theme still has me interested as well. It would certainly be a more cohesive set of images. Perhaps if we chose a small set of emoji characters to concentrate on. There are weather, nature, and emotion-related glyphs in the emoji range.

chank's picture

! ! ! ! ! ! ! Maybe a font made all out of exclamation points? That says earthquake to me!!!

chank's picture

Or how about "Lend a Hand" a font that is all made out of hands.
We could use the typographic fist to help people!
Designers love using hands in their designs,
so it'd be a very useful font.

There are six index symbols in Unicode.
Black left pointing index: U+261A ☚
Black right pointing index: U+261B ☛
White left pointing index: U+261C ☜
White up pointing index: U+261D ☝
White right pointing index: U+261E ☞
White down pointing index: U+261F ☟
(from wikipedia)

dezcom's picture

I like Chank's idea. It is directed at the cause yet breaks new ground on the kind of glyphs.

riccard0's picture

If the problem is having some sort of cohesion between submissions, I like the idea of “lending hands” (for example, there are several in the emoji list Grant linked to).
But I would vote against the fist as a reference (not just for the name ;-). As far as I know, in Japan (and several other Asian countries) it’s considered at least impolite to point a finger at someone (and, in general, I think that “pointing fingers” could give the wrong message).

dberlow's picture

For what it's worth, the international typographic spirit tells me we should make a font(s) of migratory birds and spring blossoms.

John Boardley's picture

First, thanks for this initiative, Grant.

I like the sakura (さくら) theme. In Japan the seasons are distinct and important, so perhaps something seasons related?

Also, though Japan has no official national flower, the chrysanthemum is a popular emblem of things Japanese.

blank's picture

Are there four plants/flowers we could work with to get the four seasons across? I could see cherries for spring, chrysanthemums for summer, and plums for winter. But I'm not sure what works for fall. Would the Japanese maple work for fall?

benjamink's picture

I too like Chank's idea of hands/hand/lending a hand. Simplified and distinct.

matt_yow's picture

if 'hands' (etc) was the theme, can it be expanded beyond 6 or so glyphs? this is my vote so far, but I don't want to see it limited.

the 'seasons' idea does seem to lend itself to more glyphs. as far as flowers, birds, insects, trees, & so on.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

I strongly favour the blossom idea.

It’s Japan! They are so fond of flowers and blossoms, everywhere. And: flowers are a unique symbol for sympathy and hope, people all over the planet like it. It will be a success.
The briefing could ask for glyphs from a single blossom to more elaborate vignettes …

Hand signs always denote certain gestures or expressions. Diffently perceived in various parts of the world. There are culture-sensitive issues involved, that may add pitfalls to the project.

Let us font a passionate bouquet of flowers. Let us all lend one glyph to it, one that surpasses our every-day routines.

I visited Japan 21 years ago, for a longer time. I am so sad about this inexplicable scale of distress. What can a poor fontist do in the face of such a misery?

JoergGustafs's picture

Does anyone have any contact to Japanese people who are in Japan at the moment? What about Japanese typophiles? What about Ray Larabie, who lives in Japan (as far as I know)?

eliason's picture

What about Japanese typophiles?

Ray Larabie reports that he is safe and well on his Twitter feed, as does John from, who is also in Japan.

dezcom's picture

I switch my vote to flowers and birds as well.

Justin_Ch's picture

I think a font of flowers and birds would sell more than one of hands, and this is a project to raise funds.

neil summerour's picture

Hi Everyone,

as many of my type friends know, I have been greatly influenced by Japan and my time spent there. I have 'adopted' family there and have a very fine thread of connections throughout the country and have spent a lot of sleepless evenings lately trying to connect with everyone there.

I have recoiled from the shock of the emails from friends there and everything I am seeing on tv and online and am finally focused enough to do something. I am setting up a website and method to deliver the most money directly to organizations in Japan. This circumvents international charities and the inefficiencies associated with them. I have been conferring with friends in Japan as to their recommendations of what indigenous organizations there, in Japan, that need help. The first vetted organization is AMDA International (Association of Medical Doctors of Asia) I am researching with these same colleagues in Japan on a children's organization that could benefit and we are also in a position to give directly to the prefectures (in the U.S., 'states').

I will be meeting with a bank willing to assist here in the U.S. (to handle wire transfers) and my contacts there in Japan will coordinate with CHUGOKU BANK, TOKYO MITSUBISHI BANK and YUCHO GINKO. My friends and family are primarily located in Takamatsu which is in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku (the least negatively impacted island).

The website in process is which in context, 'sogo' means 'total' or 'whole' or in line with the philosophy of 'sogo-fujo' which sees that humanitarian assistance is not regarded as a single, one-sided occurrence, rather it is seen in a cycle of reciprocating assistance giving a broader perspective of time and scope.

I will be offering a direct line for smaller donations, will be selling a special recut of one of my existing fonts and will try to collaborate with a screenprinting group to print tshirts to sell as well and am waiting to hear back to see if I can get some help with some letterpress options I could put up for sale.

Any monies collected would go through transparent channels and deliver the money DIRECTLY to the Japanese organizations there.

I think I'm still a member of SOTA. I would be happy to help curate this project with anyone and see to it that everyone's time and effort has as much effect as possible for the people of Japan.

neil summerour's picture

oh, and insofar as subject manner to build on the notion of florals, etc.
1. look at daimyo period textile patterns (not as limited to the typical sakura perception of Japan)
2. there is a whole manga sub-culture that can be explored
3. as well as the 'kawaii' cuteness culture in Japan (happy faces, cute big eyes, etc)

Diner's picture

Great suggestions all! . . . I'm also in favor of either the Flowers/Birds iconography or the Emoji suggestion . . . .

I agree it is appropriate that the font should be based on iconography rather glyphs per se and FYI it should be noted all previous Font Aid fonts, regardless of glyphs were never limited to one unicode, they were simply slugged in all Latin Type 1 slots accessible to the most number of platforms and if there were more than 230 or so, there were multiple fonts created . . .


Ray Larabie's picture

How about if everyone makes whatever they want. To some people, Space Invaders are an important Japanese cultural icon to some while others may be more inspired by flowers, hands etc.

John Hudson's picture

If emoji are chosen, I would encourage double-encoding them using both the new Unicode codepoints and some more easily accessible, e.g. ANSI characters.

It should also be noted that quite a lot of the emoji characters rely on colour. They were encoded in Unicode for the benefit of mobile telecom companies, providing them with a standard, efficient way to exchange emoji in text messages, but the expectation is that these would be displayed on devices using colour bitmaps, not TT/OT fonts.

Ray Larabie's picture

B&W versions of emoji here:

While a B&W emoji font may not be useful as an actual emoji font, it might be a decent template for dingbats.

neil summerour's picture

I agree with John and Ray completely

Japan is a lot more than what we've suggested so far.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

@neil Thanks for the offer of helping curate this — and for instigating the other preparations in support of the cause. I’ll be in contact with you via email or chat.

@everyone Thank you for all the input.

“Japan is a lot more than what we've suggested so far.” — Neil

“How about if everyone makes whatever they want.” — Ray

The number of ideas presented here is extremely encouraging. I don’t want to have this discussion bog down too much, given the time sensitivity of the matter. I believe that Ray and Neil have hit the nail on the head. The contents of the font should be thrown open to include anything relating to Japan — reflecting each contributing designer’s connection to the event, the country, and the culture.

Sulekha Rajkumar's picture

My take on this is that whatever the theme, it should cater to designers who would buy the font not just to contribute to helping Japan, but also to use it. That way we'd be able to raise more money. Keeping that in mind, I like Chank's idea of exclamation mark, or lending a hand. I think a specific theme would raise more funds than people designing anything related to Japan. What do you guys think?

- Sulekha

riccard0's picture

I still think emoji would be the best in combining a sensible theme, freedom of creative choice and usefulness of the font.
For a different take, keeping it simple: what about a font of @s?
In the first hours after the event, with phones and other means of communication cut off, internet was the only way to keep in touch. Also, it’s what we’re using to make this project happen.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

You hear “Emoji” and think “Japan” – well then.

So, everybody throwing in some arbitrary selection of a few “emoji” glyphs? Having 23 smiling cat faces and 14 hamburgers at the end? How will you manage this?
How is this going to be a useful font?

The pictographic additions of the recent Unicode launch (some explanation here) is a rather complex matter, despite being ill-treated by silly terms like “emoji” or “dingbats”.

A collection of 200 birdies or blooms or @s would simply give me a choice to select from a tremendously rich stock if I had to embellish some distinct piece of design.
If I had to do some info graphics I doubt that there is much use for a font where the TRAM is from designer X and the BUS from fellow Y. (But perhaps you think more of smileys and bunnies –?)

This is but my personal view.

riccard0's picture

I wasn’t labelling the pictographic additions to Unicode in toto as “emoji”. Just saying that emoticons where included in it. And that this subset could have been the theme for the font.
And the problem of different styles for each and every glyph is the same for birds, bunnies, flowers, or smileys.
I meant “useful” as in inspirational about how to tackle the design of these new glyphs (one thing you surely have already faced ;-)

That said, anything is good as long as it’s soon.

P.S.: I think the thread deserves handpicked status on the home page.

Mans's picture

“Your personal interpretation of Japan in one glyph” sounds like a decent spec.

P.S. I agree with riccard0 that this should be handpicked.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

I think the thread deserves handpicked status on the home page.

I agree with riccard0 that this should be handpicked.

Me too.

5star's picture

I'm down with Mans's "Your personal interpretation of Japan in one glyph" and Grant's "anything relating to Japan".

Frode Bo Helland's picture

So how and when can we contribute?

matt_yow's picture

I'd like to know the same. I'm ready to get started on something.

brianskywalker's picture


>I'm down with Mans's "Your personal interpretation of Japan in one glyph" and Grant's "anything relating to Japan".

I think there a lot of things that Japan can represent to different people. So this would probably work best.

rob_pratley's picture

i agree with Sulekha and Andreas that a less open theme is a good idea -

Something that works almost as a library rather than a random selection of glyphs that vary in their usefulness: It may encourage more people to buy it if it has utility in everyday design work also, much as the 'coming together' ampersand project for Haiti did.

kegler's picture

As with all decisions via committee, this could go on for a while.

re: usefulness
It is a charity fundraiser via the typographic community. If the intention is to have ready-made logos for lazy designers, then forget it. 'chindogu' might be a better approach and make the glyphs amazing yet unusable.

If it is to do some good, then post the guidelines and let it start.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

“As with all decisions via committee, this could go on for a while.”

Sorry for taking so long to get back to this thread. Let’s nip that little issue in the bud.

First of all, thanks to everyone for the discussion and feedback.

Richard, Chindōgu is exactly the concept I’ve had in my head since posting this, I just wasn’t exactly sure how to communicate it. This typeface should contain a stream of creative, emotive, “amazing” — and yet, potentially unusable — glyphs reflective of each designer.

Font Aid Glyph Submission Guidelines

Create a glyph that is your own personal interpretation of Japan.

* You may submit up to three glyphs
* Glyphs must be supplied as vector files only (not bitmaps)
* Adobe Illustrator .ai or .eps files are preferred
* Fontlab or Fontographer source files will also be accepted
* Glyphs must be black and white only
* Do not use colour, complex textures, or embedded bitmap images
* Remember, simple is often better

Send the following to by March 25th, 2011

* Final vector artwork file(s)
* A short description of each of your glyphs (optional)
* Your name (as you like it to appear on the project page)
* Your country

Additional information and updates will be posted to the Font Aid page on the SOTA website.

Thanks again for everyone’s input.

Now, let’s make an awesome typeface.

kegler's picture

Arigatō Grant

dezcom's picture

Domo Arigatō!

russellm's picture

I'm in,

russellm's picture

looks like the train left the station while I was thinking up things to suggest :o)

Thanks Grant.

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