Archive for the ‘Exhibiton’ Category

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.

A brief report on the Zapf Exhibition.

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The strong typhoon Roke that I’d never experienced since I came to Tokyo had passed, the sky looks clear and I couldn’t believe it was a stormy yesterday but some branches of the tree along the side of the street were fallen, which was the evidence how the typhoon was strong.

The gallery is located in the embassy area nearby Roppongi, where is known as one of the most attractive area in Tokyo for the tourist. I visited there twice during the opening days and came there today to say good bye to the awesome works. I hope to see them again and wish to have a chance admiring them at some point. But I thought this might be the final chance as it is very rare to see Zapfs’ works.

This exhibition was organized by Japan Letter Arts Firum and Akira Kobayashi of Linotype. It contains nit only calligraphy works but also type design works. Regarding type design work, Linotype brought the correction sheet of The most impressive thing of works was that all works create spurb results by their awesome technique. The edge of the terminals had a tiny hook made by the broad nib pen, the crossing point of the strokes never had any chunky result. To reach this level, I couldn’t imagine how much I have to pay attention to every letter and the texture of the composition and keep training for a long time and work on the project with big love.

I realized (I’m afraid to say that) the digital version Diotima didn’t look so exciting to me compared with the letterpress version. The digital version seems to have less rich curves and spoiled something important feature while the letterpress has a beautiful hairline arches like the lowercase n and h looked really thin and beautiful. I don’t mean the digital technology is inferior than the letterpress technique. It might be that I just never knew that the letterpress quality enable to create rich curves.

I was very surprised to know that the metal plate of Das Blumen ABC by a carver August Rosenburger was not an engraved plate but a relief printing plate. I couldn’t believe that these thinner strokes was printed by the letterpress technique! It reminded me of the type engineering lecture I attended few weeks ago. I learned digital fonts are made not only by the type designer but also by the contribution and efforts of font engineers who usually don’t appear. For a freelance type designer like me, in most cases, we need to make everything from design sketches to generate an OpenType font by ourself, which means that we need to have skills to draw precise lines and clear knowledge on printing technique, in recent days, the knowledge on the screen device is also important. Das Blumen ABC was not accomplished without the collaboration work Hermann Zapf and Rosemburger and his craftsmanship. In the digital font era, we have to be a good type designer and also font engineer.

Akira Kobayashi mentioned on his blog that the reason why letterpress Diotima’s outline looks so soft. As I had the same feeling when I saw it yesterday, so I was trying to mention about that on my report. Of course I didn’t know the detail reason about it but I’m glad to clearly know that the digital version spoiled some design features. The outlines of the letterpress had irregular holes and cracks on purpose so that the lines can generate jaggy effect, which creates the soft line and beautiful composition texture. We used to think this technique should be avoided to apply for a digital version, otherwise, the data footprint will increase and it causes something printing error, even though we don’t care so much now since the OS and printer performance gradually improved. But I realized that the similar technique might be useful and helpful to avoid mechanical impression from the digital fonts.

I had to think that I was very lucky to see the show because the show was postponed due to the huge earthquake on 11th March in Tohoku region. The show was originally planned to be held around March. I’d been in the Netherlands at that moment, so I didn’t expect I would be able to visit the exhibition.

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 exhibition Tezuka Osamu ‘Messages to the Future’

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Tezuka Osamu (November 3, 1928 – February 9, 1989) has been the most celebrated cartoonist of the Shōwa era. He produced an unparalled number of remarkable works, contributing to give shape to what we commonly refer today as the “story manga”: Tetsuwan Atomu – literally “Mighty Atom” – known in English as Astro Boy, Janguru Taitei (Kimba the White Lion), Ribon no Kishi (Princess Knight), Black Jack, Hi no Tori (Phoenix) and many others, which had a huge impact on the child readers during the Showa era. This goes especially for Atom. Without Atom’s conception, we wouldn’t probably have had such a flourishing of animation and manga culture, as well as that confidence on science’s application, technology, of which we are witnessing such a development in the field of robotics today.

The exhibition, titled ‘Messages to the Future’, was a memorial of the 80th anniversary of Tezuka’s birth. It was very nice and I thought it was worth watching. It showed original artwork taken from Tezuka’s manga works, including some draft drawings, presented in chronological order.

Left: The Edo Tokyo Museum is located in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, nearby the Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall, a famous site in the Sumo wrestling field. The museum has a huge diorama built around the theme of the downtown urban life in the Edo period, around 300 years ago. It’s a fascinating way to get acquainted with the old Japanese citizens’ lives and customs. Right: A billboard of the Museum. The building in the background is the Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall.

The opening part of the exhibition features the insects’ sketches done by Tezuka in his childhood. His name Osamu 治虫 was taken from those insects, called ‘osamushi’ (in Japanese it means ‘Ground beetle’). He really loved to watch insects. Even the small sketches in his pocket notebook show the insects’ body depicted in a very detailed way. Later on, he added captions to all of the pictures and compiled them into a book.

The exhibition represented a rare chance to see his early works while he was a college student. The characters in the early works were very cute. I was not familiar with them but I was surprised to see how they looked to me like ‘prototypes’ of his later, more famous, characters. It did not just show his more famous works, such as Atom and Janguru Taitei, but many later works I was not familiar with, and unfinished material as well.

On various artwork panels it may be seen the white-outs painted to conceal mistakes and spots, and the lettering was often added later on, done on separate pieces of paper and sticked on them. By looking at the surface of the drawing paper, I felt like I could almost see how he drew the lines and refine them with the black ink. The ink was really vivid and the balance between black and white was always achieved with very beautiful results. This reminded me of the balance between forms and counters of the letter we seek in type design.

Tezuka’s mastery was not just about in his figurative drawings, but also in lettering, for which he had a fabulous talent. His vibrant title logos on the colored covers reached my imagination and enriched the story’s world. Of course, all of them were made by hand, without any computer aid. Angular logos were dynamic and powerful, they often seemed to express certain features of Atom and Janguru Taitei, of the characters themselves.

Another part depicted Tezuka’s own daily life, showing familiar everyday objects such as pens, ink, erasers, glasses and his coppola cap (widely known as his iconic trade mark), all of them showcased on the desk where he used to draw, and there were photos with his family and the related manga works. The exhibition chronicled also the history of his many residences and relocations. I know that the Tokiwa-sou apartment was in Toshima Ward, which is nearby my town. But, I was surprised to know that the Mushi Production office is very close to my home. It seems it’s just within five minutes by bike! My town, Nerima Ward, is known as a manga town because many cartoonists live in here, but I’d never have told Mushi Production was located so close to my home.

I think that the generation of japanese people most familiar with Tezuka’s works should be now at least in its 40s, or older. I used to watch Tezuka’s anime such as “Janguru Taitei Reo”, “Fushigi na Merumo-chan” or “Ribon no Kishi”, but all of them were re-broadcasted as replicas in my childhood. Unfortunately, I have hardly seen Tetsuwan Atom, because the series was old and black-and-white, and rarely reprogrammed. My generation (people which are now in their 30s) preferred to watch robot anime such as Gundam or Macross instead. Coming to manga, I loved to read Doraemon and Toriyama Akira’s manga, Dr. Slump and Dragonball. They were a huge success for children in those days.

However, Tezuka’s manga had a great influence on me. They taught me a lot of things which I couldn’t get in school. For example, although its visual language may be a little strong, Fushigina Merumo-chan featured sexual education notions, while Black Jack gave me a strong sense of professional duty, humanity and compassion. As a child, I got interested in Black Jack because I’d sometime got sick and was forced to stay in hospital. My illness was not so serious but these stories encouraged me a lot. Of course I’m fine now.

The catalog and post cards that I bought at the museum shop.

Tezuka’s work represented a tremendous influence on the following generations of cartoonists. This means that I have read a lot of the manga which were influenced, directly or indirectly, by the work of Tezuka. I guess the influence continues to be carried on today, to the latest cartoonist, and flourished as animation and manga culture, which can now be enjoyed by many people across the world. He left a thousand of ‘Messages to the Future’ through his works. I would say Tezuka Osamu must be regarded as the father of manga.

Revised on July 19, 2009.

— Gratitude. My Type Design Pen Pal Claudio Piccinini in Italy revised my poor English text after I posted it to my blog, and translated it to Italy for Italian Tezuka Aficionado’s website. Thanks Claudio! —

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”

Visiting the show room of Shueitai typeface.

Friday, September 12th, 2008

I got a chance to see the show room that introduced Shueitai 秀英体, is the one of originate of Japanese typeface designs and exclusive typeface design for Dai Nippon Printing Co. 大日本印刷 abbreviated DNP. Shueitai was named after the Shueisha 秀英舎 which was the predecessor company to DNP established over 130 years ago.

I got together with two type designers, the one was Naoyuki Takeshita, who was former type designer of Morisawa, related article is here and here, and the other was Yutka Ozawa, who was former type designer of Adobe Japan, at JR Gotanda station, was near the Gotanda branch of DNP, Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo. Masaki Itou and Ai Sasaki, are the staffs of Shueitai project team, invited us to show the show room. Unfortunately, it was not in public.

After check-in the entrance, and then waiting for a while, Itou came and take us to the show room on the second floor. I was astonished the show room was really beautiful. The glass-walled room and white display cases are really cool and modern interior style, which had several kinds of unique gizmos. Some LSD displays show the demo animation introducing Shueitai.

Then, Itou started introducing the history of Shueitai and he explained the three generations of the media of the hot metals, photo type and digital watching composition with three medias and demonstration movie that showed by LCD monitor. Takeshita and Ozawa asked a lot of geeky questions to Itou, but he answered everything clearly and made us sure the detail. I enjoyed their dialogs because I could get information that I’ve never known. ‘I need at least two hours to talk about this presentation booth,’ Itou said with smile. It sounded like a joke but I thought he seemed to be serious and felt like talking about it. I believed he was the last person to introduce about Shueitai, as he had remarkable ability for Shueitai. They really love to talk about Shueitai.

Left: In-use example of Shueitai Shogou for a packge of ramen noodles. I think Shueitai is very useful for the food package, especially Japanese foods. Right: The leaflet of the Shueitai revival project. The lovely duo mascot named Katsujii and Tombo-chan introduce about Shueitai.

The room in the end corner displayed a lots of stuffs for the letter press printings and some old Shueitai specimen books that DNP used to use . The show case had some drawer cases. Visitors can open them one by one. The most interesting device was the digital archive finder for transition of Shueitai letter forms. The archive showed the transition along with the time line. I could see the Shueitai has been changing its letter forms gradually. ‘However, the skeleton of the Shueitai has never been changing.’ Itou said.

After seeing the show room, Itou showed the design of Shueitai which was going on revising. DNP is going on the project called Heisei no dai kaikoku 平成の大改刻, means The revival project for Shueitai in Heisei period, to revise all of the Shueitai family includes three styles, Ming-cho, Gothic: Sans-serif and Maru Gothic: Rounded. Itou showed us the design that had been drawn before. He also showed some candidate Latin alphabet fonts for Shueitai fonts. ‘It was very difficult to choose the Latin font that suited with Shueitai fonts,’ he said, showing some specimen sheets of the candidate Latin fonts that composed with Shueitai fonts.

DNP announced that Shueitai fonts will out from the beginning of fiscal 2008 year, but the plans seemed to be delayed and the release date is not clear yet. Of course, I’ll show the Shueitai fonts for sure if they were out.

The Shueitai specimen poster contains all characters of Adobe Japan1-5. Sasaki told me that ‘You should put it on the wall of toilet in order that you can memorize where every character is while you are in the toilet every day.’