Slides from a talk given at Granshan 2014 Design & Identity, in Munich.
Notes on multi-script
A comment on the current state of
typeface design for non-Latin scripts,
summarising the points made on
“Going Global” [next four slides]
1. two and a half steps
1) Providing basic,
but correct, support
2) Covering mainstream
3) Innovating in typeface design
to support rich typography
2. Multi-script or Other-script?
Distinguishing between designing
typefaces for documents integrating
more than one script, and designing
typefaces for scripts that the designer
is unfamiliar with, for overwhelmingly
to typesetting processes
In the case of new single-script
typefaces, the main challenge has been
the adaptation of script complexity to
the limitations of type-making and
typesetting systems developed for
research is time-consuming, costly,
difficult, or even impossible
Commercial pressures (time allocation,
budget limits, lack of sufficient clarity at
the project deﬁnition) and the variable
access to trustworthy information and
feedback jeopardise projects.
Parallel texts or embedded
words and sentences
Distinguishing between one column
of a script next to, or opposite to, one
in another script (e.g. in a translated
text) and embedded use (e.g. a word
or a phrase in one script within
sentences in another).
the assumptions of the dominant
script determine design decisions
Features from the original script can be
shoehorned onto the “secondary” script.
These may include vertical proportions,
stroke dimensions and modulation,
terminal formation, handling of
punctuation, and so on.
and / or
* invented word
Latinisation: the design of a non-Latin
script using design patterns and even
speciﬁc formal elements from the Latin,
usually with a mismatch between the
typographic and stylistic connotations
of the two scripts (e.g. “modern” ).
Typographicisation: the adaptation of
a script that has forms and behaviour
determined by written forms to the
constraints of a type-making and
typesetting system. This script may
often be used on its own.
3 Design challenges
Type-making and typesetting tools
Legacy “typewriter” fonts
Limitations examples: character sets,
“Typewriter” fonts: from actual type-
writers, to early digital. Of marginal
formal quality, developed under extreme
limitations, but still inﬂuential.
Character set determinism
Algorithmic line-level behaviours
Changes within a community’s
Character sets change over time, across
documents, and communities. The
“deﬁnitive” versions might not exist.
Changes to a script across generations.
Western type-family compositions
Minority scripts, dialects, and
regional “parallel identities”
Type family conventions for weight /
width / style from Latin typefaces that
do not transfer easily to another script.
Communities sharing a complex script,
but not a language, an orthography, or
Stroke modulation and proportions
Range of curves and counters
Range of in/out points
Number of continuous strokes
The variability of radii and counter
shapes are most likely more complex
than in the Latin; stroke dimensions
tend to respond to these factors.
Transferring the logic of the ductus into
the typographic forms.
Parity with existing styles
Opportunities for expansion
The fewer the existing relevant typefaces
for a script, the more pressure for new
ones to relate to them.
Conventional ways to expand a type
family may not apply to a non-Latin
script, requiring innovative thinking.
The cultural moment!
Modernity vs. convention
Variety and differentiation
Identity and exploration
Typefaces respond to and reﬂect the
range from language preservation to
mainstream textual communication,
to imported / novel genres that express
aspirational classes and generational
p.s. Where’s the intelligence?
As a typeface project develops, how do
we capture the design decisions and the
knowledge generated? And how is this
built upon across projects? Our current
workﬂows aim at ﬁnal outputs, not
capturing and analysing processes.
No part of this discussion
needs to stem from the
technology of type-making.
We lack a clear, shared language
to discuss typeface design decisions
for shapes and behaviours that is
independent of the means of making