Archive for the ‘Event’ Category

Type Renoir in Hong Kong

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Type Renoir in Hong Kong, is a type design talk session by international type designers, will be held on Sunday 14th October 2012 at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

An annual international typography and type design conference ATypI will be held in Hong Kong from 10th to 14th October for the first time in Asia. Japanese type designers and graphic designers will be there as a speaker. Julius Hui, was a freelance type designer based in Hong Kong at that moment and joined Dalton Maag last month, proposed that this must be a great chance to have an extra talk session with Japanese type designers to share each other’s design situation. Then the session has been planed and will be held after the ATypI conference. Julius organized all and arranged the international speakers with Keith Tam, a type designer and HKPolyU School of Design’s Assistant Professor, and made a lovely poster for the session.

Speakers are as followings:

佐々木愛 Ai Sasaki
秀英体開発室 Shueitai Development Department
大日本印刷株式会社 Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.

Amélie Bonet
Type Designer
Dalton Maag Ltd

秀親&塚田哲也 Hidechika & Tsukada Tetsuya
グラフィックデザイナー Graphic Designer
大日本タイポ組合 Dainippon Type Organization

両見英世 Hideyo Ryoken
タイプデザイナー Type Designer
タイププロジェクト株式会社 Type Project Inc.

譚智恆 Keith Tam
助理教授 Assistant Professor
香港理工大學設計學院 School of Design, The HKPolyU

岡野邦彦 Kunihiko Okano
タイプデザイナー Type Designer
Shotype Design

Paul Barnes & Christian Schwartz
Commercial Type

西塚涼子 Ryoko Nishizuka
シニアデザイナー Senior Designer
アドビシステムズ株式会社 Adobe Systems Co., Ltd.

羅小弟 Roman Wilhelm
Type Designer

岡澤慶秀 Yoshihide Okazawa
タイプデザイナー Type Designer
ヨコカク Yokokaku

Japanese members will be talking about their own works briefly. I also give a presentation about my typeface for the final project at Type Media master course of KABK (Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague Netherlands).

Type Renoir is a pop-up type and typography talk series hold by group of Japanese type designers in Tokyo since 2011. Type Renoir is named after Renoir cafe, is the popular reasonable cafe in Kanto region, mainly metropolitan area, providing the conference room that we usually use.

Facebook page is here.

The reserch presentation on the Asahi Shinbun typeface.

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

TOKYO — The presentation on the research for the Asahi Shinbun Typeface was provided by Akiko Nakai, assistant manager of the font division of Asahi Shinbun Co., at BIZ Shinjuku, Tokyo on December 8th. The Asahi Shinbun is the one of major newspapers in Japan and published the first issue in 1888 in Osaka then now became the second largest newspaper company. Nakai joined the font division about two years ago and attended Shinjuku Shijuku: 新宿私塾, literally means the Shinjuku private school and provides one year typography program organized by Robundo, is known as a publisher featuring typography, to get knowledge and skills on typography. The report was compiled as a final project of the curriculum. The presentation was provided not only by a slide show report but also a lot of physical stuffs from letterpress to digital Asahi used. They included many draft sketches and the Kanji letter press pieces including ruby, called Furigana, is a Japanese reading aid Kana characters along with the Kanji for indicating its pronunciation. Besides that, the stuffs marked “confidential stuffs” were also included and Nakai told that it must be rare opportunity to show them since we never took place like this exhibition.

Left: Draft drawing. Right: 35mm film for archive. Asahi sent them to IBM to digitize

Nakai explained in her presentation about the history of the Asahi Shinbun Typeface and showed many photos of the workplace to make the typeface. In the earliest time, Asahi bought typefaces from some Japanese type foundries such as Tsukiji Katsuji or Motoya Matrice, but after the WWII, as the amount of the publish was getting increase, Asahi decided to make an original exclusive typeface.

One of the interesting background stories in the design history was why they started making vertical compressed letters, now is known as a newspaper typical typeface style in Japan. As a possibility going to World War II were getting higher, paper supply and quality went worse. Asahi decided to reduce the amount of the pages per an issue and they made a small typeface, 6.286pt, to keep an equivalent information. But the complaint that the typeface looks too small arose not only inside the company but also from the readers, besides that, the government also required that the newspaper letters should be lager to protect the readers eyes. To solve this problem, the staff considered that the letters should be as large as possible without changing the amount of the information. Unlike Latin language newspapers, Japanese newspapers set text vertically. The staffs came up with the only solution to make the letters larger without changing the text length must be expanding letters horizontally. Considering that the eyes of the human being are on the face horizontally, an expanded typeface could have readability for readers. Since the Asahi Shinbun started using newspaper style expanded typeface, the rest companies followed to use it, and now vertical compressed Mincho style is regarded as a Newspaper style typeface.

Left: Draft drawing of Mincho style. Right: Draft drawing of Mincho Titling style.

Asahi repeated to make the letters larger several times and brushed up them as the typeface has been changed along with the transition of the mechanical three main methods from letterpress to digital.

The report was well compiled as an company history featuring its typeface, but I was a little bit disappointed that it didn’t deal with the detail of the design transition so much. Nakai showed some references using some Kanji letters, for instance “朝” that is the initial Kanji letter of the Asahi Shinbun, but I wanted to know how the Kana design transition had been made and the what the future typeface design will look like to fit the screen media as the Asahi Shinbun eager to make web site and smart phone applications to provide its issues.

Some of attendees who I met after the show told me that it was very good presentation, which was interesting. They seemed to be satisfied that the presentation. But I doubt it.

Asahi Shinbun typeface must have an equivalent design history to the Shueitai typeface, which is the one of main stream design typeface in Japan and turned centennial last year. The exhibition to cerebrate the centennial of Shueitai showed the long history and tremendous important stuffs. I’m sure Asahi also has the equivalent stuffs like Shueitai has. I hope they will publish the book on the Asahi typeface and provide more detail information in public.

Pre event talk show for Zapf Exhibition.

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

The 6th Type Talks featured the Zapf Exhibition “Hermann Zapf & Gudrun Zapf, the World of Calligraphy” form 13th Sept. 2011 in Tokyo organized by Akira Kobayashi and Japan Letter Arts Forum (J-LAF), which includes some Calligraphy works and type design works. About 80 attendees were gathering to the ABC Aoyama Book Center and enjoyed interesting topics related to the Zapf’s works.

Minako Sando, is a calligrapher and representative of J-LAF, and Yukie Hoshi, is also a calligrapher and core member of J-LAF, explained the background stories of the preparation for the show and the visit to Zapfs’ house in last January to pick up their works. They talked about the meeting with prof. Hermann Zapf and Gudrun Zapf von Hesse with some interesting photos and the selection in their archive rooms. And then, explained some high lights of the works in the exhibition. She analyzed the letter forms and techniques in the works one by one from the Calligrapher’s point of view and explained the difference between letter forms focusing on the lowercase “d” in the Hermann work Quotation by Walter Crane. It has almost 30 variations “d” like the long ascender and the alternative letter form which has a curly ascender stroke. One of the examples showed the terminal of the loop ascender stroke looks continues to the following letter e and r. She guessed the order of the strokes if the e was written after the r or the stroke just looks connecting to the r. (Oh, hard to explain without the image!)

A Calligrapher and type designer Ryuichi Tateno, is a designer of Pirouette and Stevens Titling from Linotype, explained and demonstrated the Zapf’s techniques, a so called piano technique (means pen pressure transition during drawing the terminals of a stroke) and drawing strokes which was introduced in the book Creative Calligraphy published by Rotring in 1985, and the famous short movie The Art of Hermann Zapf by Hallmark cards.

And at last, Akira Kobayashi joined the talk via Skype from Bad Homburg, Germany, and talked about the high lights of the type design works by Zapfs, mainly the collaboration works with Zapfs, such Diotima and Optima Nova.
He mentioned about the design transition of the lowercase “g” of Diotima in developing phase for the metal type to the digital revival Diotima Classic. He happened to find a document file of Diotima in the Linotype archive room while he was preparing for the Helvetica exhibition in 2009. He realized the lowercase g had been changed several times during the developing process for about few years. And it continued in the collaboration works of Diotima Classic with Gudrun. Almost of the works he introduced in the talk show will be displayed in the exhibition. I learned a lot of high-lights of the works today, which must be helpful to admire the exhibition works.

In fact, Minako and Yukie came by to see me in the Hague during visiting to the Zapfs’ house as I was joining TypeMedia KABK. I was very glad that they somehow took a time and came to the Hague even though they were supposed to be busy preparing for the meeting and had to back to Darmstadt right away. They told me about the visit but seemed to be nervous to see Zapfs because Akira Kobayashi couldn’t join the meeting due to a cold even though they expected he introduced them to Zapfs. I just made a wish everything would go well and I was very glad again to hear yesterday that everything went well and they got a great experience with Zapfs.

I’m the one of big fans of Hermann Zapf, so I’m looking forward to the show. I’ve never seen of their works firsthand, so it must be a rare chance to take a close look at them. I have some Hermann Zapf’s books but I can tell the differences between the original and the picture. I wish I can steal their techniques;-)

The exhibition was planned in last March, but it had to be rescheduled in September because of the Higashinihon earthquake (the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11). The show starts on 13th Sept. until 25th at le bain in Nishiazabu, Minato Ward, Tokyo, Admission 1,000 yen. It includes more than 50 pieces, Handwriting, Replica, Materials for font development, Metal typesetting, etc. A special program is also scheduled to show the DVD movie “The Art of Hermann Zapf” produced by Hallmark Cards Inc. on 18th and 25th Sunday 13:00 / 15:00 (twice a day). This show is highly recommended and don’t miss it.

The last letter engraver Kinnosuke Shimizu.

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The type event in 2010 started with the letter engraving demonstration at the Ota Bunka no Mori, in Ota Ward, Tokyo. An engraver craftsman Kinnosuke Shimizu, who turned 88 years old on that day, is one of the last letter original engraver craftsman in Japan.

Left: Ota Bunka no Mori center in Ota Ward where the demonstration event was held. Right: Attendees were gathering around Shimizu’s table.

When I entered the room, he already started cutting letters sitting on the floor in front of a wooden work table. A bunch of attendees were gathering and crowded around his table. A desk lamp illuminated his fingers, but it is hard to see how he cut the letter because the metal stick he was going on was very small. Sometime, the stick he picked was shining in his fingers. Using an old loupe, Shimizu gazed at the stick. He sometime rotated it, and the tiny chisel was slightly moving on the top of the stick. He showed superb technique and made letters slowly one by one. He seemed to be very fine. It was hard to believe he turned 88 years old today.

Left: Shimizu was sitting on the floor toward his work table. Right: Shimizu explained how to curve letters to attendees.

While he concentrated cutting letters, often said that “Let me know if you have a question, I can answer them working on demonstration.” So I hesitantly asked him some questions.

According to him, he started cutting letters when he was 14. He worked hard all the day, it took about five years to cut letters well. The workshop he joined had five craftsmen, included him but it had few dozens craftsmen at peak, which produced about fifty letters per day.

I expected cutting tiny letters such a ruby, so called Rubi in Japanese and is used for a furigana superscripts, takes a longer time than larger ones such Shogo 初号. But he told me that “Cutting smaller letters are easy. Rather, large size letters need to take a time. They require accurate quality, so, it took much care for cutting them. While cutting average small letters takes about a twenty minutes, but average large size letters such Shogo take a few hours. Of course it depends on its size and complexity.”

Left top: He gazed at the stick through the loupe. Right top: A tiny stick he picked was shining in his fingers. “Cutting reversed letters is easier than writing normal letters. I can’t write normal letters well,” he said with a smile.

“Do you have any pupil or is there any followers to try to make it?” I asked. Then “No, there’s no demand for engraving letters at all, but I can teach you if you want,” he answered with a smile. “Because of appearing new technology, (might be the Benton cutting machine and a photo type setting technology) most of punch cutters had to retire, then he left the job about fifty years ago. After some decades passed, however, some type designer asked me to demonstrate cutting letters at the letter press event. At first, I denied because I forgot, plus I no longer had tools for that. But my wife still had all of them. So, I tried to do that, then I could,” he explained.

“I would like to say thank all of you guys. Thanks to everyone’s help, I have been a craftsman for a long tome and am able to show this demonstration today. It was a pity when I lost a job because of new technology, but I’m happy I can show you guys cutting letters due to all of your interests,” he added.

Left top: A T-formed loupe stand he customized. Right top: Hold a letter stick like this. Left bottom: Left hand which holds a letter stick is set on the end of the horizontal bar, and right hand which grabs a chisel is put on the right side. Right bottom: An enlarged letter stick reads 鶴龜 pronounce Tsuru Kame, means crane and turtle, which are the symbol to bring happiness. 鶴 has 21 strokes, and 龜 has 16 strokes within about 5mm square each.

Left: A grind stone, Right: All chisels he uses are made by himself. He customized them to fit his hand and fingers. Meanwhile, counterpunches are used in making Latin alphabet punches, Shimizu grave letters without any counterpunch. Almost of Kanji letters have many complicated crossing strokes, which create thousand kinds of counter shapes. That’s why, making counter punches to fit all kind of counter shapes is not economic way at all.

When we are talking about a font regardless of digital or letterpress, we tend to focus on type design or typography, which is to say what we can see only. However, the fonts we have now and letterpress on an old book were provided by the collaboration between designers and engineers or craftsman like Shimizu. Without craftsman/engineer’s skills and big efforts to making fonts, these are never provided to users. When we get a font, I think we have to imagine not only designers but also craftsmen and engineers who had worked hard to make it.

Left top: Shogo 初号, engraved directly by Shimizu. Right top:Original letters made by Shimizu were displayed at the corner in the room. Visitors were able to see the superb skills Shimizu had. Letters were shining and glaring and had sharp edge. Left bottom: He prepared these letters for this event. Right bottom: Rubi letters. Katakana letter within 2mm square.

As I mentioned above, it was the Shimizu’s 88th birthday. After the demonstration event, the birthday party celebrates his Beiju “米寿, 米 consists Kanji numeral 八十八, reads eighty-eight, and 寿 means celebration” was held nearby the event place. That’s too bad, I couldn’t join the party, but I was sure the party must be exciting. I hope to see his demonstrations again. Congratulations, Mr. Kinnosuke Shimizu.

To know some terms for letterpress and electrotype, I asked typophilers about them here. I would like to say thank to those who helped me out.

Automotive Designers’ Night Tokyo

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

A bunch of designers were coming to Automotive Designer’s Night Tokyo which was held at AXIS gallery, in Roppongi, Tokyo, titled Kurumaza 車座, literary means sitting in a circle, 車 means car in Japanese, as a pre-event of Tokyo Motor Show 2009. The room was packed and loud, so it was hard to catch what neighbors are saying. Attendees might discuss and talked about something hot topic related to car vehicles or ecology issues. The medias reported the Tokyo Motor Show was shrinking because of the withdrawal of Euro and US car makers, but the room was warming up and seemed to be no sign of descending car market but filled with emotions to the future.

The sponsor companies showed its products there, Denso previewed Good Design Award 2009 Frontier Design Award Winner Driver’s font and provided the series of business card-sized papers to applicants. They could get the cards with their name printed by Driver’s font. It contained 4 cards, 3 styles of Driver’s font, Driving, Neutral and Sports Mode, plus a serial number card. There seem to be a lot of hurdles in order that Driver’s font will be available in automotive instruments, but I hope the fonts will be welcomed by car makers.

The series of cards provided by Denso at Automotive Designer’s Night Tokyo.

Tokyo Motor Show 2009 will be held from October 23rd through November 4th.

A short trip to celebrate the Centennial for Tomi-no-oka vineyard

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

At nine o’clock sharp, the JR Shinjuku station the Chuo line track 10, I got on the Limited Express Azusa #9 bound for Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture neighboring Tokyo, to join the event cerebrated the centennial anniversary of Tomi-no-oka vineyard by Suntory, beverage and liquor maker. As I designed a logotype for the vineyard’s centennial anniversary, I’ve been thinking to visit there during the centennial events would be held by the end of this year. The event I submitted included a tour in the winery and a special dinner with five Tomi-no-oka wines.

As the train approached Kofu, vineyards spread along with the track, Yamamashi is known for producing some kinds of fruits, especially Kofu, where is the land suitable for vineyard.

After arriving at the Kofu station, to waste a time until the tour would start, I came by Yamamashi Museum to see the Millet collection. Taking a lunch with Houtou noodles, famous as popular food for Yamanashi people, then returned to the Kofu station.

Getting on the shuttle bus to the vineyard, it took around twenty minutes, then the buildings in the winery covered with white wall appeared among the mountain. After an entrance procedure, the tour started with the guidance by Mr. Shounai, Brewery Manager.

As the tour started from the evening, all production line in the factory had already finished, we just went through the brewery facilities to see all rooms one by one and arrived at the wine cellar in the tunnel of the Tomi-no-oka hill. A hundreds of wine casks were laid quietly and waiting for bottling. The next room preserved the thousands of wine bottles waiting for the release date.

After watching the facilities, we got on the bus again and went to see the vineyard. The bus went through the forest, then the vineyards appeared in front of the bus. The vineyard spread on the southern slope on the hill with direct sunlight. From the top of the Tomi-no-oka hill, I could see the Kofu Bonchi Basin surrounded by high mountains called Minami Alps mountain chains, named after the Alps in Switzerland, but unfortunately, clouds covered Mt. Fuji.

Shounai allowed the tour members to bite grapes in the vineyard, known as Merlot for red wine, where would be harvested soon. “Wow! Delicious and Sweeeet!!” I didn’t expect the grape for wine is very delicious.

Then, evening twilight has come, the sky turns dark, the town lights in Kofu area started to lit up. The twilight dinner started and served beautiful and brilliant skilled dishes by the ingredients in Kofu with five Tomi-no-oka wines. We enjoyed the marriage with delicacies and wines. I was very glad to find the vineyard is excellent and fantastic place, and it was a great chance to work for the vineyard. To the next hundred years of Tomi-no-oka vineyard, Cheers!

Left: The bottle cerebrated the centennial anniversary for the Tomi-no-oka labeled with the logotype I made (Not for sale). Creative director of Suntory send me them after the tour. Right: The quarterly magazine published by Suntory titled “クォータリー: Quarterly” Vol.88 described the history of Tomi-no-oka vineyard.

Torinoumi gave a presentation at UD publishing collegium.

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

The talk show began with showing a photo taken Mt. Chokaizan volcano, located on the border Yamagata and Akita Prefecture in Tohoku Region, the Northern part of Japan. Snow on the top of the mountain is brilliant and beautiful, rice fields spread around the foot of the mountain, beautiful rivers run through the field. This place is known as the location of the Academy Award winner movie Departures. Torinoumi was born and raised there.

Osamu Torinoumi is the head of Jiyukobo Inc. (字游工房), is known for designing Hiragino font family bandled on Mac OSX. After working for Shaken, was the biggest photo-type setting machine maker in Japan, as a type designer, he was the one of two co-founders of Jiyukobo under ex-boss Tsutomu Suzuki, was founder of Jiyukobo and passed away in 1996, and now leads the office.

When Torinoumi was a student of Tama Art University, he visited Mainichi Shinbun Co., Ltd., (The Mainichi Newspapers), to see a workplace for making typeface for its newspapers. Torinoumi decided to become a type designer by the word from Masahiko Kozuka, a type designer giant in Japan and worked for there at that time, that “For Japanese people, Letter is like rice and water.” He might remember the scene in his childhood.

Left: The event was held at Japan Braille Library (日本点字図書館) in Takadanobaba, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Right: The event room displayed the slides Torinoumi provided.

The talk show had three parts. First, Torinoumi introduced the history of Letter in China and Japan briefly, then talked about the issues titled “About the topic on the body text which make users feel annoyed.” He showed the tips for how to choose a proper Japanese typeface for body text comparing several kind of typefaces, for example, the balance of black and white, body size and the balance with the Latin alphabet. As for the balance of black and white, usually, Kanji letter becomes darker as its number of strokes is increasing. When setting all Kanji characters, you have to pay much attention to the contrast of the texture. If the contrast is high, it’s not good for a body text. The typefaces Jiyukobo made were really well-balanced and moderate texture. The references he showed were very clear to find the differences among the typefaces.

“I believe that typefaces for body text have played an essential role for developing Japanese culture after Meiji era. In order to provide the contents on the several kinds of medias such as books, comics or magazines, typefaces on these medias must have clearly showed its contents to readers, which means typefaces were a pillar part of Japanese culture,” Torinoumi said. “I hope to make a typeface which can be used for these medias for a long time,” he continued.

In addition that, he told us an interesting episode about typeface design. “I can say typeface has dignity because I know most of people think typeface has dignity,” he said looking back the presentation he gave before. “I asked the attendees whether you think Ishii Ming-cho from Shaken (well known for one of the excellent design) has dignity? then, ninety percent of them answered ‘yes’. I thought it meant typeface is able to have dignity. In order that typeface lives for a long time, it needs to have dignity, I thought we have to take care that point when we design fonts.”

Torinoumi also mentioned about the UD fonts (Universal Design font). UD font is becoming a hot topic in Japanese typeface market because of the design trend in Japan. Especially Product design field tends to design products with Universal Design philosophy. About the trend, “I hope you had better to take care where the UD fonts should be used. I don’t think the UD fonts are versatile. Some of UD fonts might be good for titles, signs or interfaces for electronic devices, but I don’t think they would work for body text of books or magazines,” Torinoumi said.

The second part was a presentation about the project making original Kana font for the printing company, Caps inc. The project started by the request from Caps Inc. for its exclusive use. Torinoumi made two sibling Kana fonts, the one named “Bunrei-Kana (文麗仮名)” is for Japanese literature, especially early-modern literature, the other named “Soukyu-Kana (蒼穹仮名)” is for translated foreign literature. Because the word came from overseas such as character’s name are expressed with Katakana in Japanese language. There are thousands of Katakana words in the sentences on Translated literature. Soukyu-Kana featured distinguished Katakanas compared with Bunrei-Kana.

Before starting to make letters, he read the book titled Kokoro by Soseki Natsume, the one of famous Japanese old literature, to develop design images. The story described character’s compassion, so Torinoumi wanted to make letters one-by-one with much compassion.

Usually, Torinoumi draws draft design with a lettering method. But in this project, he decided to challenge the way he never tried before. First, he drew the skeleton of letter on the 20 millimeter squared guide lined paper with pencil. Then he drew draft design with a brash with method of Calligraphy. By drawing letter with a brash at once, he thought the letter got natural forms featured specific brash movement. At that moment, he thought “I’m fabulous and no type designer who is able to draw such these excellent letters.” However he had to change his mind soon.

Left: The draft design on the drawing paper with 20mm-square guideline. Right: After enlarged them to 48mm square, then input them into PC.

After digitizing the draft letters as a prototype font, the result of the setting was really worse, which made him disappointed. The Kanas he had thought excellent were no good at all. Torinoumi analyzed the reason and found that the draft drawing based on brush handwriting was too close natural forms of Calligraphy. Typeface had to work not as Calligraphy but as a typeface. Having too much handwriting letter forms didn’t contribute to readability. Calligraphy method didn’t work to design Kana letters than he expected. He repeated to revise them, and the revision counted 13 times, which created sophisticated design and elegant forms.

And at last, he demonstrated inking Bunrei-Kana letters with brush.

Above: Demonstration an inking letter technique for the draft drawing. No straight line in almost of Kanas. To keep the draw point head-on, he rotated the paper. He learned this method at Shaken Inc.

Left: Inking with a guide scale, Japanese Menso painting brush and Japanese ink. He inked the Kana with superb skills about 5 or 6 minutes per letter answering visitor’s questions. He rotated the guide scale along with the curve of the letter. Right: After drew outlines, filled inside. You can see a wonderful technique from here (Note: QuickTime Movie).

Left above: The specimen book of Bunrei and Soukyu that Caps Inc. provides. Right above: Bunrei-Kana. The consequence stroke form at the top of letter ”あ” in the draft sketch was erased.
Left bottom: ぶんれい Bunrei-Kana. Right bottom: そうきゅう Soukyu-Kana.

Related article: Type seminor in Kyoto
Related article on Jiyukobo Inc.: Talk show with two type designers, Kataoka & Okazawa.

Talk event, the exhibition Typeface found in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Do you know the name of typefaces that you can see in downtown?

A type designer Naoyuki Takeshita is a notable designer not only making his Japanese font named Take:竹, means bamboo which was named after an initial of his family name 竹下 Takeshita, was distributed by Morisawa, but also his blog titled Machide mikaketa Shotai, 街で見かけた書体 means ‘Typeface found in downtown’. He introduced a lots of typefaces and fonts which were on billboards, traffic signs or shop signs while he was hanging around downtown. He often posted photos on typefaces he found to his blog with a comment using a lot of humor. As he is a typeface designer for Japanese font, he knew almost of typefaces not only old hot metals and photo type setting but also the recent digital fonts, so he can tell what the name of the typeface quickly.

Takeshita’s exhibition titled Setagaya de mikaketa Shotai 世田谷で見かけた書体, means ‘Typeface found in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo’ was held at the Setagaya Culture Life Information Center. The project started last July by the request that Hasegawa, was the organizer of this exhibition, asked Takeshita for searching typeface in Setagaya, because Hasegawa was interested in Takshita’s blog and wanted to held the exhibition. The project has been started last August, then Takeshita came to Setagaya several times to take photos. The exhibition was compiled by the best selection. As a pre-event, he also started a blog titled Setagaya de mikaketa Shotai 世田谷で見かけた書体 from the beginning of last December, he continued to post some photos and comments in the same way he had done on his blog before until the end of last year.

Left: Takeshta talked about this project. Right: Hasegawa showed the map that they used while the research. The map was almost tattered because of overused.

The talk event had two parts, the first, Takeshita showed the typefaces which he had seen in Setagaya by category, billboard sign, traffic sign, railway sign and public sign. He introduced the typeface we don’t know, and signs we usually don’t take care about, such as a mark on the road called Doukai, 道界 which indicates boundaries to divide properties.

The second, he picked up the things which he was interested in, non-typeface letters such as logotype and hand writing letters, and introduced the food shop or restaurants he had take a lunch while he walk through downtown. ‘One of funs when I researched downtown was looking for a nice restaurant or a food which are famous in Setagaya,’ Takeshita said. ‘I didn’t search any restaurant in advance at all, I decided the shop for a lunch after coming to the research place. ‘If I found a nice billboard or facade, I tried to enter the shop and had a lunch’, he continued.

‘I found the main purpose of this project was not knowing what kind of typefaces are in Setagaya but finding  characteristics of Setagaya by looking for typefaces’, Takeshita said looking back the research. So, I asked that ‘I’ve heard you had found a lots of typefaces on signs around Tokyo before this project started, did you find the difference among Setagaya Ward and the rest area where you had ever visited? Plus did you find the specific trend for typeface in Setagaya Ward?’ He answered that ‘As I mentioned, the main purpose of this project was to know about the specific trend in Setagaya, but it was a pity that I couldn’t find it, but I found different topic. I live in Saitama prefecture (northern neighboring Tokyo), so I could find the difference that each public region has own regulation way where the public signs should be placed.

Left: The exhibition space. Right: The direct mail of the exhibition and the novelty chocolates that delivered to visitors. The chocolate imitated the mark on the road Doukai 道界.

According to Takeshita, some of who saw this exhibition wanted to see what is the situation about another district, as there are 22 wards in Metropolitan Tokyo except Setagaya. I thought it must be hard work for Takeshita. I knew he spend a lot of time to finish this project. It was not easy work at all. However, I also know he can’t stop looking for typeface in downtown, he must be going to start another project soon because he is always searching typefaces and fonts everyday. I hope he will plan another project which features area he will be interested in.

Related topic.
ICOCA Card with typeface “Take”

Type seminor in Kyoto

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Eizan railway, the one-man operating train has two cars runs through northern Kyoto city, which left the terminal station named Demachiyanagi in northern Kyoto city. It was a retro-car that had woody interior when I got on this train about fifteen years ago, but it seemed to be updated into the state of the art cars that had wide view windows. After getting on the train for about twenty minutes, the train arrived at the Kyoto Seika Univ. station. I came to this college several times while I was a student of Kyoto City Univ. of Art about sixteen years ago, but the looking had completely changed.

I looked for the class room the lecture would be held and found it but there were only three persons in the room. After a while, the chime rang and then a bunch of students came into the room.

I wanted to see this lecture because not only Akira Kobayashi would give a presentation but also the lecture would deal a program on Corporate Type. Besides, Osamu Torinoumi would show the presentation. Torinoumi is a type designer for Japanese font and General manager of Jiyu-Kobo, which is one of famous type foundries in Japan and designed Hiragino series bundled in MacOSX. I’d never hear his talking, so I was looking forward to seeing his presentation.

First of all, Akira Kobayashi talked about his projects that he worked with Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger, and the type conference such TypeCon and AtypI. And then he explained about his workshop at AtypI St. Petersburg. He demonstrated how to draw alphabet letters by brush and the Double pencil method to understand what the natural letter form looks like, which was the same way he did in his workshop. We learned how to draw the Roman capital letters with double pencils. He said this method was the same way Europian design colleges did.

(Left)Signage in Kyoto Seika Univ. and the letter I draw with the double pencil method.(Right)

And Second, Masao Takaoka, is owner of Kazui Press, which is the most famous letter press in Japan, explained about Corporate Type. He explained about the Suntory Project, which is the first case for Corporate Type in Japan. Suntory is a beverage and alcohol maker.

Torinoumi explained about the digitize letter project for Shiseido, is cosmetics maker in Japan. That was very interesting story. Shiseido has an exclusive typeface for its advertising. According to Torinoumi, designers who join Shiseido company need to learn how to draw the exclusive typeface by hand at first. However, there are only two master designers who can teach newbie the way of lettering. Both of veterans will have to retire soon. So, Shseido decided to record the letter forms so that newbie will be able to reference letter forms whenever they want. Then, Shiseido asked Jiyu-kobo to digitize its letter forms.

Jiyu-Kobo started the project with two veterans. Jiyu-kobo digitized the letter and asked veterans to check the data. Both of veterans pointed out the same place, but the opinions how it should be revised were a little difference each other. Jiyu-Kobo often confused which opinion we should take. They repeated to check again and again. It took a lot of time to confirm the letter forms one by one.

After digitizing all letters, Jiyu-Kobo suggested making an “exclusive font” but Shiseido denied. “Shiseido told me that” Torinoumi said. “We don’t need a font. We know it’s easy to get the letter forms and to set letters using font, but we think it’s important that designers draw letters to know its forms and to hand down them to the following generations.” Torinoumi explained.

Picked Shiseido typeface up from the magazines and catalogues Shiseido issued. These are not the same one Jiyu-Kobo finalized but you can see what the Shiseido typeface looks like.
(Top Left) Shiseido letters in its advertising. (Top Right) Logotype for the magazine titled Hanatsubaki
花椿 literally “Flower of Camellia”, Shiseido used to issue for sales promotion. (Bottom Left) Shiseido company logotype. (Bottom Right) Shiseido symbolmark called Hanatsubaki. Shiseido uses the bottom one now.

Shiseido typeface has really unique letter forms. These forms reminds me of Japan’s old days. Shiseido kept the letter forms for over eighty years. “These letter forms were very funny, but elegant,” Torinoumi said, looking back the project.

At last, Kobayashi hinted that the one of Corporate Type projects will out in 2010. “I’m going to be busy to make fonts from the beginning of next year” he continued. After the Suntory project, there was no Corporate Type project in Japan. So I’m looking forward to seeing which company will out it and what the font looks like.

Talk show with two type designers, Kataoka & Okazawa.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

A really interesting talk show with two type designers for Japanese fonts was held at 5tanda sonic: pronounce gotanda sonic. Akira Kataoka, who designed unique Ming-cho style font named “Maru ming-cho: 丸明朝” and “Maruming old: 丸明オールド” , and Yoshihide Okazawa, who works for Jiyu-Kobo, which is one of the leading design companies for Japanese fonts and was famous that Jiyu-Kobo designed Hiragino family that bundled with MacOSX.

Maruming old is unique Ming-cho style font that have rounded edges and traditional skeleton, especially Hiraganas and Katakanas. There was no style like Maruming ever before, so a lot of designers welcomed to use it into their works. I think you might see Maruming old at least once a day in the posters everywhere you go and the commercial films while you see TV programs.

Left: Yoshihide Okazawa (Left). Right: Akira Kataoka

They started with looking back days when they started type design for the first time. Okazawa talked about his college days when he started to design letters. “Emigre and Neville Brody were hot in that days,” he mentioned. As he is my age, I had a lot of similar experience with him. I also started to design when I was college student using Fontographer 3.1 as I’ve got an impression of Emigre and Neville Brody. Okazawa finally made a Japanese typeface, using a function of Japanese word processor, which was able to make letters, for his graduation works. As I knew the way of making typeface using word processor was very hard and needed a lot of times, so it was hard to believe his story. If it was a true, I thought his energy for making fonts was enormous.

Kataoka also mentioned his old days and episode when he started to design letters for the first time. While he worked for a design office, he always wrote a lot of letters on presentation boards for a business show that the client would be held. And decades passed,the economy situation turned down around 90s, known as the collapse of the bubble economy. “I needed to have special skills so that I could survive the severe economic situation,” Kataoka said. He thought that he could draw letters and love to draw letters. “If I could make a font, I could have it as a property,” Kataoka continued.

At the second part of the show, Okazawa demonstrated how to make Japanese digital fonts that Jiyu-kobo did using a software named “Bezier editor” from URW. According to Okazawa, Jiyu-Kobo usually begins with making basic reference characters for Kanji letters. They always draws two Kanji letters “国:country” and “東:east” to decide basic design for a starter. The reason they begin with these letters is that these two letters have several kind of characteristic elements for Kanji letters such as serifs, strokes, counters and body size. After that, they scan these images into the PC and traced them using Bezier editor. Then repeat this process for basic 12 letters as well.

The part of Kanji letters that they made before were available to share with the rest letters. For example, in case he wants to make the letter “明”, he assembled the left part of “昭” and the right part of “朝”. It must be revised to fit the space where the part should be, but it’s faster way than making all parts one by one.

I was astonished that he controlled bezier curves to fit the sketches very fast!! It took around only ten minutes per one letter. I was sure he had a lot of experience to control bezier curves. That’s why he did it very quickly.

Then, he demonstrated how to design Hiragana letter “あ”, which is a phonetic character that we pronounce it “a”. “To make all parts of (more than 7000) Kanji letters, we just draw only few Kanji letters, on the other hand, we need to draw all (more than around 100) Kana letters to design them” Okazawa said. I guessed Hiragana and Katakana have a lot of gorgeous curves, so they need to draw all Kana letters in order to decide the design of Kana characters. The skills of drawing letters by hand must be faster than controlling bezier curves.

Left: The basic letters “国” and “東”. Jiyu-Kobo judges several kind of factor such as body size, counter, serif and weight by these basic letters. Right: Okazawa demonstrated how to trace the letter “あ”.

Meanwhile, Kataoka showed his method to design Kanji letters. “I think the skeleton of the letter is very important factor to design letters” Kataoka said. He usually gathered several style of typefaces that he was interested in, not only old and ancient ones but also the one his staff drew by hand. Then, he selected two completely different style of typefaces and overlapped them. He picked up overlapped image and traced it. I thought it was like a blending method. The letter that he traced overlapped image was completely different design compared with the typefaces he selected at first. According to Kataoka, the way of design of Maruming was the same method he demonstrated. I thought it was very unique method to design new one.

Left: Kataoka picked up a image by overlapping both of two different images. Right: The horizontally stroke elements for Kanji letters as a prototype.

I’ve already heard how to make Japanese font, but I’ve never seen the method directly like the way they introduce this time. I thought these were very interesting and I was happy to see live-actions. I was pretty sure these fascinated audiences.