China’s forgotten typefaces find a home.
The Year of the Rat has kicked off with an indispensable addition for any designers working with Chinese characters.
Launched today is the Chinese Type Archive, a volunteer-run, open data resource that will bring awareness and discussion around Chinese typefaces for designers.
Spearheaded by New York/Hong Kong multi-disciplinary design studio Synoptic Office, the archive will support designers who use Chinese typography by developing descriptors for concepts, typefaces, and related entities, archiving related and relevant visual examples, and providing points of entry through translation and highlighting relationships to other typographic systems.
The project seeks to address a lack of design discourse surrounding Chinese typography in both China and the English-speaking design world – and find a home for China’s forgotten fonts.
Synoptic Office was co-founded by design academics Caspar Lam and YuJune Park, and has designed extensively for both US and Chinese markets. The Archive has been in beta since last November, launching today officially with over 230 Chinese typefaces, definitions, and resources with information in both English and Chinese, as compiled by a core team of students and graduates from Parsons School of Design and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Lam says: “While calligraphy (hand-written forms) has been extensively catalogued and studied in China, the same methodical attention has not been given to Chinese typography (type made for print and screen) until recently. As a result, there is no strong shared language of typography for designers to use.”
To remedy this, Synoptic Office set out to combine their academic and design expertise to compile and catalog resources related to Chinese typography, aiming to make them open and accessible to the widest possible audience of designers.
Park adds, “We hope this archive will serve as a catalyst for research and discussion, a meeting place where people can contribute and get information – a kind of Wikipedia for Chinese type.”
Because many of the typefaces catalogued are un-named or were named after the printer, the archive includes new names for the typefaces and more importantly, a stable ID number to help designers differentiate and use them with more ease.