Tag Archives: Web Fonts

Emmy award for web fonts: faster online streaming

6 men in suits on red carpet, Blue Emmy awards background

From left to right: Googlers Roderick Sheeter, Garret Rieger, David Kuettel, Tobias Kunisch, Jimmy Mooney, Raph Levien at the Emmy® awards 
Photo credit: National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS)

Perhaps you watch the yearly Emmy® awards to see if your favorite television shows and actors will win. (The Emmy® awards are for television shows in the United States.)

Did you know that software engineers and font teams also win Emmys®?

Google Fonts is part of the The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Fonts Working Group that won an Emmy this year for Standardization of Font Technology for Custom Downloadable Fonts and Typography for Web and TV Devices at the Technology & Engineering Emmy® Awards. The award ceremony took place at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas on April 25, 2022.

The award was for the Web Open Font Format 2 (WOFF2) that became a standard in 2018. WOFF2 is installed on all major web browsers and powers a vast majority of sites. Google Fonts collaborated on creating both WOFF 2 and its predecessor, WOFF. The team created and maintains the WOFF2 encoder and decoder that convert a font to WOFF2 and from WOFF2 back to a font. The encoder and decoder are used in most browsers.

Two men in tuxedos, one man holding Emmy statue

Google Software Engineers Jyrki Alakuijala and David Kuettel (left to right), Photo credit: NATAS

What are web fonts? How do they impact your online entertainment streaming?

Web fonts enable people to use fonts on demand without requiring installation in their operating systems. They make it easier for your movie or television series to load faster and they take up less Internet bandwidth. WOFF2 fonts are smaller and load faster than previous formats, such as TrueType Font (TTF) and Embedded OpenType File Format (EOT).

Before the invention of web fonts such as WOFF2, some fonts were embedded in images and would slow down the time it took for the pages to load. When text is embedded in images, such as in film or television posters, and not included as alt text or in adjacent text near the poster, it can cause accessibility issues for screen reader users because screen reader programs usually can’t read embedded text in images. With WOFF2, it’s more convenient for website designers to use fonts to display text. As a result, screen reader users can hear the text read to them.

Man holding Emmy statue with National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences backdrop

Garret Rieger, Google Fonts Software Engineer and Co-chair of the Web Fonts Working Group, Photo credit: NATAS

“Prior to the WOFF, if online media streaming services wanted to use web fonts, they would have to provide the web fonts in several different formats, depending on the browser. Since all major browsers support WOFF2, online streaming services only need the font in the WOFF2 format. Google Chrome was the first browser to support WOFF2,” explained Garret Rieger, Google Fonts Software Engineer and Co-chair of the Web Fonts Working Group.

The Web Fonts Working Group is currently collaborating on a standard for incremental font transfer to speed up font loading. With this technology, clients, such as a streaming company, will load only the portions of the font they actually need.

Posted by Susanna Zaraysky, Google Fonts Content Strategist

Voici Radio-Canada, la police de caractères du diffuseur public canadien, plusieurs fois primée et maintenant disponible sur Google Fonts

caractères typographiques de la police Radio-Canada, supportant deux axes variables et 317 langues.

Une police de caractères créée pour renforcer l’identité distinctive de CBC/Radio-Canada sur toutes les plateformes du diffuseur public est maintenant disponible sur Google Fonts dans plusieurs langues (dont les langues autochtones parlées au Canada) utilisant les caractères latins.

CBC/Radio-Canada est le diffuseur public du Canada. Son mandat est de renseigner, d'éclairer et de divertir, afin de renforcer la culture et la diversité canadienne à la radio, la télé et sur les plateformes numériques. À titre de diffuseur public, CBC/Radio-Canada est fier d’offrir publiquement sa police de caractères par le biais des polices de caractères Google.

De style humaniste, elle se démarque par ses angles et ses empattements distinctifs. Sa hauteur d’x assure une excellente lisibilité conformément aux normes d’accessibilité numérique, ce qui la rend très performante lorsqu’utilisée en texte continu.

La police Radio-Canada a été créée en 2017 par le designer et typographe montréalais Charles Daoud, en collaboration avec Coppers and Brasses et Alexandre Saumier Demers. Elle a été conçue spécifiquement pour CBC/Radio-Canada afin de répondre à ses besoins de diffusion de contenus, tant sur le numérique qu'à la télévision ou qu'en imprimé. 

En 2018, la police Radio-Canada a raflé trois distinctions, dans la catégorie Design de police de caractères aux Communication Arts Typography, Applied Arts Design Annual et Grand Prix Grafika.

Plusieurs optimisations ont vu le jour en 2021 grâce à la collaboration d’Eli Heuer. Il a développé la fonction variable de la police de caractères basée sur les deux familles statiques, augmentant au passage les glyphes originaux (de 490 à 679) et les langues latines (de 106 à 317). 

En 2022, Jacques Le Bailly (Baron von Fonthausen), avec l’expertise d’Aaron Bell, a optimisé la police afin de supporter les langues autochtones du Canada (dont Sechelt, Algonquin, Ojibwé, Carrier, Chipewyan et d’autres langues ajoutées en continu).

La police Radio-Canada est offerte en deux styles (Romain et Italique), deux largeurs (Regulier et Condensé), et cinq graisses (Léger à Gras) ainsi qu’en fonte variable.

Publié par Susanna Zaraysky, Google Fonts Content Strategist

You can now use Radio-Canada’s brand typeface: The award-winning variable font comes to Google Fonts

Radio Canada character set, 2 variable axes, 317 languages supported

A typeface made to give a specific identity and distinction to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Radio-Canada’s public broadcasting platforms is now available on Google Fonts in many languages using the Latin writing system, including many indigenous languages spoken in Canada. 

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster. Its mandate is to inform, enlighten, entertain, and strengthen Canadian culture and diversity on radio, television, and digital platforms. As part of this mandate, CBC/Radio-Canada is proud to release its original typeface publicly and make it available through Google Fonts.

The Radio-Canada typeface was created in 2017 by Montreal-based designer and typographer Charles Daoud, in collaboration with Coppers and Brasses and Alexandre Saumier Demers

The humanist style stands out with distinctive angles and subtle curves. In compliance with digital accessibility standards, the font’s x-height is intended to increase legibility, making it very effective when used in continuous text.

In 2018, the Radio-Canada typeface won three awards, in the Font Design category at Communication Arts Typography, Applied Arts Design Annual and at Grand Prix Grafika.

Several optimizations were made in 2021 thanks to Eli Heuer’s contributions. He expanded the static font into a variable font and increased the character set (490 to 679) and the number of supported Latin languages (106 to 317).  

In 2022, Jacques Le Bailly (Baron von Fonthausen), with the expertise of Aaron Bell, expanded the font to include support of indigenous languages used in Canada, such as Sechelt, Algonquin, Ojibway, Carrier, and Chipewyan (more languages to be released).

The Radio-Canada typeface is offered in two styles (Roman and Italic), two widths (Regular and Condensed), and five weights (Light to Bold); and as a variable font.

Posted by Susanna Zaraysky, Google Fonts Content Strategist

Morisawa BIZ Universal Design (UD) Japaese fonts added to Google Fonts and Google Workspace

As part of our larger effort to make great type accessible in more languages, Google Fonts is pleased to announce that the Japanese type foundry Morisawa has made 2 BIZ Universal Design (UD) font families available on Google Fonts, under the SIL Open Font License. These Gothic and Mincho designs, available in regular and bold weights and proportional and full width styles, are now also available in Google Workspace 

“Having these fonts available in Japan allows Google Education to align with the most widely used fonts in education publishing in Japan,” said Stuart Miller, Head of Marketing for Google Education in Asia Pacific (APAC)​. “This makes it easier for partners to collaborate with Google Education. It also ensures a more consistent, inclusive, delightful experience for the millions of teachers and students that use Google tools.”

Drawing on extensive end-user evaluation, the BIZ UD typefaces were developed using the principles of universal design (UD) to ensure legibility (the ease of differentiating individual characters) and readability (the ease of reading text overall). BIZ UD fonts are especially suited for conveying text accurately—for example, in educational settings, corporate communication environments, and other places that use ICT

Earlier versions of these fonts are available as part of the Windows 10 Japanese Supplemental Fonts package. Morisawa and Google collaborated with Type Network to update the fonts to the latest Google Fonts technical specifications for web fonts, and expand the Latin glyph set. 

BIZ UD is available in Gothic (BIZ UDGothic and BIZ UDPGothic) and Mincho (BIZ UDMincho and BIZ UDPMincho) in two weights (Regular and Bold). Try them out and let us know what you think!

About the type foundries

Morisawa is Japan’s leading font foundry that has never wavered from its commitment to undertaking research and development in typography since its establishment in 1924 – the year it invented the first Japanese phototypesetting machine. The company provides font licenses for over 1,500 typefaces of Japanese and multi-script, web font services, embedded fonts, and multilingual e-magazine/book solution services. Their library includes typefaces from TypeBank and its group company Jiyukobo.

Type Network brings together the world’s best independent type foundries and designers, offering a carefully chosen collection of their fonts for all uses and negotiating on their behalf with our clients on custom design projects and enterprise licensing. Through their partners, they also offer a wide range of other typographic services, including consulting, teaching, and lecturing around the world. The Type Network team has been working in digital type since desktop publishing first gave designers the tools to take control of their own typography.

Posted by Dave Crossland, Google Fonts Lead UX Programs and Operations Manager

Flow and Redacted: Check out these new options for wireframes and other early-stage designs

Give your simulated text a realistic look while making it easy to add copy later on with Dan Ross’s Flow Fonts and Christian Naths’s Redacted.

Showing text in an early-stage wireframe can be distracting, even if it’s just Lorem ipsum placeholder copy. After all, a successful wireframe is clean and simple, with just enough information to communicate an idea. But how do you convey “this is text” without showing text? 

One popular technique is to draw shapes that resemble a block of redacted text. (Redacted text is usually used as a security or privacy measure in a document to make certain words unreadable.)

Another technique is to use handwritten scribbles. This creates a sketch-like look that’s especially suited to quick concepting.

Images of handwritten scribbles and a block of redacted text.

Examples of text substitution styles used in wireframing. Left: Redacted Script, a handwritten scribble style. Right: Redacted text style. 

But instead of simulating redacted text with scribbles or shapes, now you can use a typeface to achieve the same effect. 

Image of an app UI with Flow Rounded

Flow Rounded in use

Flow Circular, Flow Block, and Flow Rounded from Dan Ross and Redacted from Christian Naths are four redacted text options. For a handwritten scribble style, try Nath’s Redacted Script, which is available in Light, Regular, and Bold.

Flow and Redacted not only make it easier to give your wireframes the look you want, they also make it easier to drop in copy later on (since you won’t have to replace shapes with text or switch out components). Plus, since fonts don’t destroy the underlying text data, all it takes is a single click to go from text to redacted text—and back again. 

All five fonts are available now on fonts.google.com.

Posted by Sarah Daily, Brand and Content Consultant

The Story of Zen Fonts – interview with Yoshimichi Ohira


This interview is a sequel to "Say Hello to our big new Japanese collection with Zen Fonts: Learn about the complex beauty of Japanese fonts."  By Min-Young Kim

[Min]  Hi, Mr. Ohira. Thanks for making time to talk about your fonts with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your pathway to starting this project?

[Ohira]  Thanks for inviting me. It’s my pleasure to share my project on Google Fonts. I started my design career as a DTP operator for phototypesetting. The beauty of the typeface influenced me so much that I wanted to design one myself. Back then, the typesetting order came from several organizations, such as printing offices, publications, advertisers, etc. Each organization had different preferences for what kind of typefaces they wanted, but I always felt there should be something that they all have in common. With Zen Fonts, I aimed to create a highly legible, classy typeface that would work for any creative purpose, and that would live long past 100 years. 

[Min]  What kind of reaction did you get when you first released the Zen family?

[Ohira]  The first typeface was released in 1997, the Zen Old Mincho, with only one Regular weight. To be honest, I didn’t get much reaction at that time. But the following year  the typeface started to get some attention among designer communities; little by little, more and more designers contacted me to purchase the font. Back then I was so worried and not sure if I, the small independent vendor, could make a living from selling  font licenses, but after releasing multiple weight families, the business became stable and it was all worth the hard work.

Zen Old Mincho text written in Japanese with some styles and weights

Zen Old Mincho

[Min]  What did you focus on, or have in mind, regarding the readability of the font when you designed it?

[Ohira]  In my opinion, traditional designs are friendlier to users and thus easy to read. People are always attracted to beautiful designs because they foster a smooth reading experience. A comfortable reading rhythm is created by controlling the dynamics. For these reasons, I believe traditional and beautiful design with well controlled dynamics brings high quality legibility, and so I focused on them when designing the Zen Fonts.

Man and woman sitting by fire with cups, conversation bubbles in Zen fonts
Zen Antique, Zen Antique S

[Min]  What kind of research did you do to create your font?

[Ohira]  Old typefaces and books are the core base of my work. I used to look at them often for inspiration. I could see how the flavor in the old letters influenced the legibility, and I would apply those discoveries in my designs.

[Min]  It’s amusing how you designed such a progressive typeface at that time from traditional books and letters. Why do you think there were no similar fonts like yours’ created before? Do you think the recent research or technology made it possible to create your font that didn’t exist previously?

[Ohira]  There are a lot of antique old-style metal typefaces that have good legibility. Those old typefaces gave me many ideas that I applied to my work. I believe that the good legibility of Zen Fonts comes from pursuing traditional old-style legibility. But there are many ways to approach the issue. If more type designers focus on legibility, we can have a variety of Japanese fonts with high legibility. 

Zen Maru Gothic text written in Japanese with some styles and weights
Zen Maru Gothic

[Min]  Do you have any plans to expand your font families to multiple scripts? Are there any similar fonts that support multiple scripts?

[Ohira]  I would love to expand the family, if possible. I believe that having a wide range of glyphs and supporting many scripts are very meaningful things to do. As for the latter question, I don’t think there are any Japanese fonts similar to Zen Fonts that support multiple scripts.

Kaku Gothic text written in Japanese with some styles and weights
Zen Kaku Gothic

[Min] What do you think we can do to help designers recognize the many factors that go into choosing fonts—that there’s more to consider (depending on the purpose of the design, or who the design is for) than the look or style of the design?

[Ohira]  Let me share my experience. I once got a commission to design a signage system for a public facility that needed to follow the principles of universal design. I offered the Zen Font family, but the client wanted to know a logical reason why this font should be used for this project. So I gave them a detailed explanation about the good legibility of the Zen Font. A few days later, the client’s answer was yes, and they said that they did not think a single font could matter this much on legibility, and that their views on fonts have changed completely. Then I realized that not many users recognize the legibility of fonts. So my answer is that we need more opportunities and places to communicate between users and type designers, to share, discuss, and ask questions about fonts.

Zen Kurenaido text written in Japanese with some styles and weights
Zen Kurenaido

[Min]  What do you think is the next step for the current type and typography realm? Or, what do you wish already existed in the world for type and typography?

[Ohira]  The number of fonts and type designers are increasing every year, but I’m afraid there aren’t enough fonts with memorable designs or good legibility. I wish that the type designers put more time to think deeply about the usage, purpose, and demand of the font. You need much more time than you think to design a font. This also means that the economic situation (budget and payment on font projects) and the environment of the realm should improve too. 

[Min]  Thank you for the wonderful insights and comments. This is the last question—what’s next for you in type & typography?

[Ohira]  I’m not sure yet, but, probably wandering around the world to meet more letters and types.

Black and white photo of Yoshimichi Ohira wearing glasses
Yoshimichi Ohira

About Yoshimichi Ohira

Ohira became a type designer after building his career in typography. He has designed 23 Japanese fonts and three Latin fonts. One of his major works is Zen Old Mincho N Family, which pursued traditional Japanese beauty. In addition to type design, he also works on creating metal seals (Hanko).  Zen Fonts

About the author
Min-Young Kim is a UI/UX and typography consultant based in Tokyo, with a focus on trilingual Korean-Japanese-Latin multiscript typography. While not yet a typeface designer herself, Min has developed a career in the font business as a type project manager, and started her own studio Em Dash in 2020. She recently worked with Google Fonts on Japanese and Korean font development projects, Adobe Creative Cloud on East-Asian UX research & design, and was invited to the jury of the D&AD Awards 2021 for type design. With a deep understanding of typography, Min is dedicating her life to diversifying the potential of fonts in various products and environments, and hopes more people can find the fun in choosing and using type. @mintoming  AtypI presentation


[きむ]  本日はインタビューに応じていただき誠にありがとうございます。まず、大平さんについてご紹介いただけますでしょうか?どのような経緯でタイプデザイナーになり、Zenファミリーのプロジェクトを始めることになったのかぜひ聞かせてください。

[大平] ご招待くださりありがとうございます。私は写植でのDTPオペレーターを経験した際に、書体の美しさに触れ、私自身も書体を作りたいと思うようになりました。当時の組版発注者は、印刷、出版、映像、広告関係者でした。製作者によって指定書体に偏りがありましたが、その中でも共通する書体があることを知りました。Zen書体で目指したのは、どのような制作物にも共有できるオールマイティーな書体ファミリーです。そして、読みやすく美しい、息の長い100年続く書体を生み出したいと考えました。


[きむ]  Zenファミリーをリリースした当時の反応はどうでしたか?

[大平]   1997年、ZENオールド明朝-R(Regular)は1ウエイトだけのリリースでした。正直に言うと、当時の反応は殆どありませんでした。しかし、翌年から徐々にデザイナーさん達のコミュニティなどで書体が認知されるようになり、ZENオールド明朝を探し求め、購入者がどんどん増えていったことを思い出します。当時を振り返ると、小さなベンダーがライセンス事業で本当に成り立つのか?とても不安でした。結果的にファミリー化も実現し、ここまで継続できたことは非常に意義のある経験でした。

[きむ]  Zenファミリーをデザインする際に、高い可読性を持たせるためにどのようなことを意識しながら制作しましたか?

[大平]    伝統的なものは、親近感が湧くのでわかりやすい。美しいものには、惹かれるので違和感が生まれにくい。そしてメリハリは、強弱などがあり、可読にふさわしい心地よいリズムをつくると考えられます。これらの理由から「伝統的」や「美しい」、「メリハリ」には、質の高い可読性を呼び込む要因があると考えて、意識していました。


[きむ]  制作の際に、どのようなリサーチなどをされましたか?

[大平] 古い活字や古い書物をよく眺めました。文字の中に味わい深さを感じとり、可読性も感じられました。これらの文字から多くを学び、影響を受けました。私の書体制作の基盤となっています。

[きむ]  あのような画期的な書体を古い書物等からお作りになったのは素晴らしいですね。それまでにZenファミリーのような書体が存在してなかった作られなかったのはなぜだと思いますか?現代の技術と研究があれば、Zenファミリーのような書体をもっと作ることは可能だと思いますか?

[大平] 過去の古い活字には高い可読性を持ったオールドスタイルの書体はたくさんありました。私はその古い書体から多くのヒントをいただき作品に反映させてきました。そして、オールドスタイルを重要視して読みやすさを追求した結果、Zenファミリーの「良い可読性」が得られたと思ってます。どこにアプローチするかが大切です。様々な可読性へのアプローチがあれば書体に多様性を育みます。そして、高い可読性を持つ書体がたくさん生まれてくると考えてます。


[きむ]  今後大平さんの書体を多言語展開をしたいと思いますか?Zenファミリーと似た方向性のほかの日本語書体の中で多言語展開しているものはありますか?

[大平] 文字の拡張や多言語展開はとても有意義なことだと思うので、ぜひ挑戦してみたいです。Zenファミリーに似た他の日本語書体で多言語展開しているものはないと思います。


[きむ]  フォントを利用するユーザーのみなさんに、フォントによっていかに「読みやすさ」が変わるかを認識してもらうためには、どんなことができると思いますか?見た目のデザイン的な要素だけでなく、目的や読み手によってフォントの選定基準が変わることをもっと知ってもらうために、わたしたちができることはなにがあると思いますか?

[大平] 私の体験談をお話します。以前、バリアフリーに関わる公共施設のサイン計画について、デザイン会社から相談の依頼がありました。私はZenファミリーフォントを提案しましたが、クライアントはなぜそのフォントが適しているのか詳しく説明して欲しいとのことでした。そこで、私はいかにZen書体が読みやすいか詳しく説明しました。後日、クライアントから「今まで以上に書体と可読性の関係性について理解でき、書体の見方が変わりました」との連絡をいただきました。ユーザーと接するなかで「読みやすさ」について認識されている方は少ないと感じてます。ユーザーや書体デザイナーが気軽にフォントについて相談できる場所の提供や、意見を共有できる仕組みが必要なのかも知れません。


[きむ]  今現在のフォントやタイポグラフィ業界における課題はなんだと思いますか?

[大平]   フォントや書体デザイナーの数が年々増えていますが、記憶に残るデザイン、良い可読性を持つフォントが少ないように感じてます。使われ方、目的、需要などを熟慮し、貴重な時間を惜しみなく使い、制作に挑んで欲しいと思います。フォント制作に挑むには多くの時間を必要とします。書体デザイナーの取り巻く環境、経済的な問題をクリアーできる仕組みも必要ではないでしょうか。

[きむ]  貴重なお時間をありがとうございました。最後になりますが、大平さんの書体やタイポグラフィにおける次の旅はどこに続きますか?

[大平] 今はわかりませんが、たぶん、文字との出会いを大切にした放浪の旅に出るかも知れません。



文字組版と向かい合う中で、いつしか書体デザインに携わる。これまで和文23書体、欧文3書体の作品を製作し、代表作は、和文の伝統的な美しさを追求した「ZENオールド明朝Nファミリー」など。現在は印章で用いる古代文字(篆書)に関心を抱き、オリジナルデザインの文字で金属製印鑑を製作している。Zen Fonts

日欧韓トリリンガルのUIUX&タイポグラフィコンサルタント。専門は多言語タイポグラフィ。日本の大手タイプファウンダリにてフォントのプロジェクトマネージャーを経て、現在は個人事務所Em Dash(エムダッシュ)を立ち上げ、様々なプロジェクトに参加している。近年ではGoogle Fontsとの日本語および韓国語のフォント開発、Adobe Creative Cloudの東アジア言語のUXリサーチ&デザイン、D&AD Awards 2021にてタイプデザイン部門の審査委員などに携わっている。タイポグラフィの知識を活かし、フォントの可能性を広げ、より多くの人々に文字とフォントの楽しさを伝えていくことを目標としている。 @mintoming  AtypI presentation 

Say Hello to our big new Japanese collection with Zen Fonts: Learn about the complex beauty of Japanese fonts


By Min-Young Kim

In 2019, Google Fonts started an ambitious project to expand its font library with a variety of typeface designs for Japanese. At that point Google Fonts had fewer than 10 Japanese families, most of which were basic Mincho (serif) and gothic (sans) designs. Since then the collection of Japanese fonts within the library has grown, now with 38 font families from 18 designers, in a variety of styles – from formal text types to fun display fonts. All these Japanese fonts are now live on Google Fonts for anyone to test out and use in any project.

A featured image in the Zen font family in light purple, green, red, and light brown, with black shapes and lines, and the name of the Zen font
The Zen Fonts collection is the largest set of Japanese fonts on Google Fonts
As part of this larger effort to expand Japanese offerings, Google Fonts collaborated with type designer Yoshimichi Ohira to open his prestigious collection of Zen Fonts typefaces to the public. With 23 Japanese and three Latin fonts in various styles of mincho (serif), gothic (sans serif), maru (rounded), and display styles, the Zen Fonts collection is now the largest set of Japanese fonts in Google Fonts’ expansive library, and is also available in Adobe Fonts. Check out The Story of Zen Fonts - interview with Yoshimichi Ohira to learn more.

Four lines of Japanese text with labels for “Katakana,” “Hiragana,” “Kanji,” and “Japanese Punctuation
Different kinds of scripts are used to write in Japanese

Understanding the culture of Japanese fonts

Japanese fonts have unique features and systems that aren’t seen in other Asian scripts. To understand, evaluate, develop, and release quality fonts for partners and users, the Google Fonts team needed to learn about and respect this unique typography culture. As a typography consultant, I developed a new evaluation criteria for Google Fonts that included all the important characteristics of good Japanese fonts.

Japanese is a complicated script

Japanese is a melting pot of scripts! There are five scripts most commonly used today in Japan. The first can be traced back more than a thousand years to China, when Japanese people borrowed Chinese characters to write their language. These Chinese characters are called “Kanji” in Japan. In the 1100s, the Japanese developed much simpler forms of letters called Kana. There are two sets of Kana, Hiragana, and Katakana; Hiragana is used for Japanese words, while Katakana is an alternative to Hiragana used for foreign or unfamiliar words. Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana were used together to write Japanese text for hundreds of years. In recent centuries, Japanese people also adopted Arabic numerical figures and the Latin script, which is commonly used for English or other European languages—similar to many other places around the world. The very best Japanese fonts support all these writing systems, but many excellent Japanese fonts may have limited or zero Kanji characters.

What a big character set!

Compared to Latin fonts made for European language users, Japanese fonts with Kanji typically contain a huge number of characters—the biggest common standard for Japanese character sets spans over 23,000 glyphs. Not only do Japanese typeface designers have many glyphs to draw, but they must also handle many different kinds of character sets. There are also various different standards for categorizing.   

Kanji sets: Adobe, JIS, Jōyō, and educational Kanji

The Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) system, with its four levels, is a popular way to categorize Kanji characters. “Name Kanji” are used specifically for names of places and people, and each of the JIS levels has a different selection of them. “Educational Kanji” is the smallest Kanji set, which includes Kanji that are taught in elementary schools, divided into 6 levels. “Jōyō” means “usual usage” and refers to the 2,136 Kanji that are used in official documents or news broadcasts, which people learn up until the end of high school. 

Many Japanese fonts support Adobe’s Japanese character sets. The Adobe Japan 1-3 set (with 9,354 glyphs) is perhaps the most common, while the Adobe-Japan 1-6 set is the biggest. 

These are related to the JIS levels, such as the Adobe-Japan 1-3 character set matching the JIS level 2. These contain all the Kanji used in everyday life, plus some more specific, yet common ones. Adobe-Japan 1-6 supports all four levels of JIS Kanji and enables texts for any occasion in Japan.

  • JIS Level 1:  With a foundation of 2,965 characters, this level includes the “educational Kanji” and “Jōyō Kanji” groups.

  • JIS level 2: With the addition of 3,390 Kanji to the Level 1 set, Level 2 covers all the most commonly used characters in everyday Japanese life. It also matches the Adobe-Japan 1-3 character set.

  • JIS Level 3: This matches Adobe-Japan 1-4 with an additional  1,259 characters, but is a midway to a wider range of Kanji expression; many recently-developed Japanese fonts cover either JIS level 2 or 4.

  • JIS Level 4: This is the JIS Kanji classification level with the biggest character set. Most of the 2,436 Kanji included here are rarely seen in daily life but are still needed for formal publications and government-related texts to address specific words or names.

JIS Level 1 contains simple Kanjis, while JIS Level 4 Kanjis are more complex and consist of more strokes.
The higher the JIS level is, the more often complicated and rare Kanjis are included

In working to publish new font families in the Japanese font development programme, we had to juggle an enormous number of characters. Most font families passed the bar set by the Adobe-Japan 1-3 standard—as that is commonly used as a minimal “full set”—while some fonts had coverage of JIS level 3. Some supported only the Educational Kanji.

Four lines of text displaying the variety of different character types
Japanese fonts with the different kinds of character sets available on Google Fonts

Alternative Kanji glyphs

Kanji can have alternative glyphs and there are two perspectives on the need for this.

Current Kanji letterforms in digital fonts are different from what we write with a pen and a brush. They often use more simple structures, which are easier to design as fonts, but harder for readers to understand as the actual anatomy of the Kanji letterforms may be unclear—especially to learners. An alternative Kanji glyph design trend is to add brush-like characteristics to the letterform designs, which is known as a “humanist” style. These design details allow readers to see more familiar Kanji forms and may enable children to learn Kanji more easily. 

There are several alternative glyphs for the older form of Kanji, mostly used for publications, official documents, or intended design. Even though it’s an “old form”, these Kanjis are still seen on many occasions.

Four examples of default Kanji glyphs vs. their common alternative glyph counterparts (逢, 葛,祇, 噌)
Common alternative Kanji glyphs

The Latin inside Japanese fonts
Japanese typeface designers call the Latin script section of their projects the “Subordinate Latin.” The typical Latin typeface has glyphs with varying proportional widths, but Kanji are designed to fit within a square space which means they are much wider than most Latin letterforms. This means a typical Latin font will look much too narrow when mixed in among Japanese characters.  To allow Latin to blend with the other scripts in Japanese text, Latin letterforms are modified to be slightly wider and have shorter ascenders and descenders and bigger counters. In addition to this adjusted Latin, Japanese fonts also include a “full width” Latin design.

“Hello Type” set in Shippori Mincho Subordinate Latin vs. Times New Roman
Japanese Subordinate Latin (top) compared to Times New Roman (bottom)

What the Japanese library means to the design community

This project to expand the Google Fonts library to better support Japanese users was not just about expanding the fonts themselves. Adding new Japanese fonts to the global font platform demonstrates Google’s recognition of Japanese fonts and culture. Today, in Japan and Korea, many fonts are only available in-country and are not available for purchase or subscription abroad. Through Google Fonts, users from all over the world can now access and use Japanese fonts, and they have a new opportunity to meet and experience the beauty of this unique language.

About the author
Min-Young Kim is a UI/UX & typography consultant based in Tokyo, with a focus on trilingual Korean-Japanese-Latin multiscript typography. While not yet a typeface designer herself, Min has developed a career in the font business as a type project manager, and started her own studio “Em Dash” in 2020. She has recently worked with Google Fonts on Japanese and Korean font development projects, Adobe Creative Cloud on East-Asian UX research & design, and was invited to the jury of the D&AD Awards 2021 for type design, and presented at AtypI Tokyo. With a deep understanding of typography, Min is dedicating her life to diversifying the potential of fonts in various products and environments, and hopes more people can find the fun in choosing and using type. @mintoming 

Zenフォント: 新しい日本語フォントコレクションの登場 – 日本語フォントの複雑な美しさについて –

筆者: きむみんよん

2019年、Google Fontsは日本語フォントコレクションの大幅な拡大プロジェクトを始めた。当時Google Fontsには10ファミリー程度の日本語フォントしかなく、そのほとんどは基本的な明朝体やゴシック体のみだった。それが今では、本文用から見出し用まで様々なスタイルの38の書体が、18組のデザイナーより追加され、豊富で多彩な日本語コレクションとなった。これら新しく追加された日本語フォントは、すべてGoogle Fontsを通して誰でも簡単にダウンロードして、どのようなプロジェクトにも使用することができる。

Google Fonts最大規模の日本語フォントコレクション、Zenフォントファミリー

この日本語コレクションの拡大において最も力を注いだものの一つは、大平義道さんによるZenフォントコレクションの招致だった。ZenフォントはGoogle Fontsの新しい日本語コレクションにおける最も大きいファミリーとして、明朝体、ゴシック体、丸ゴシック体、そしてデザイン書体など全部で23の日本語書体と3つの欧文書体が加わり、更にはAdobe Fontsでも利用可能となった。(より詳しくは:『Zenフォントのおはなし:大平義道さんとのインタビュー』



日本語フォントには他の言語にはない独特の機能やシステムがある。それらを理解しクオリティの高い日本語フォントをリリースするため、Google Fontsチームはこの独特なタイポグラフィカルチャーを学ぶ必要があった。そのため、私はタイポグラフィコンサルタントとして、クオリティの高い日本語フォントが持つべき重要な特徴を評価する新しい基準を設けた。







多くの日本語フォントはAdobe-Japan 1に準拠しており、Adobe Japan 1-3(9,354文字)が最も一般的で、Adobe-Japan 1-6が最も大きい文字セットだ。

これらはJISの漢字水準とも繋がっており、例えばAdobe-Japan 1-3はJIS漢字の第二水準に相当する。この文字セットは一般生活で必要な漢字に加えて、利用頻度が低めの珍しい漢字もいくつか収録している。Adobe-Japan 1-6はJIS漢字の第四水準まですべて収録しており、どのような日本語文章も組むことができる。

  • JIS 第一水準:  全ての教育漢字と常用漢字の一部を含めた2,965文字を収録している。

  • JIS 第二水準: 第一水準に3,390文字を追加しており、一般生活で必要な漢字が含まれている。Adobe-Japan 1-3文字セットに相当する。

  • JIS 第三水準: 第二水準にさらに1,259文字が追加された、Adobe-Japan 1-4に相当する文字セットだが、中途半端な範囲なため、近年開発される日本語フォントの多くはJIS第二水準もしくは第四水準のどちらかの文字セットを収録している。

  • JIS 第四水準: JIS漢字水準のうち最も大きい文字セット。第四水準で追加される2,436文字のほとんどは極めて珍しい漢字だが、出版物や行政書類などで必要な単語や固有名詞を記すのに必要となる。

JIS 第一水準は永、花、円、英など馴染みのある漢字が含まれ、JIS 第四水準では飂、蘞など日常では滅多に目にすることない漢字が含まれる。

Google Fontsの日本語フォントコレクション拡大において、膨大な数のフォントを開発・管理しなければいけなかったため、文字セットの理解はとても重要だった。ほとんどのフォントは最も一般的な文字セットのAdobe-Japan 1-3に準拠していたが、JIS第三水準に準拠したフォントや、教育漢字のみ収録しているフォントなど、様々なフォントがあった。

かなフォントのPalette Mosaicから、JIS第三水準までカバーしているDela Gothicまで4種類のフォントの使用例。
日本語フォントの様々な文字セットの例。すべてGoogle Fontsから利用することができる





逢, 葛,祇, 噌の異体字切替。



“Hello Type”の文で比較する従属欧文と純欧文の違い
2つの文章は、各自、上は日本語フォント「しっぽり明朝」の従属欧文、下はTimes New Romanと異なるラテンアルファベットで組まれている。比べて見ると、日本語フォントの従属欧文のほうが、純欧文よりも字面が大きく、カウンター(ふところ)も広く描かれている。


Google Fontsの日本語コレクション拡大は、単にフォントの数が増えるという事実以上の意味を持っている。グローバルフォントプラットフォームに日本語フォントが多数追加されることは、Googleがいかに日本語フォントと文化に注力しているかの証明でもあるのだ。現在、日本や韓国では、フォントの利用は国内でのみ可能で、海外からの購入やサブスクリプション契約はできないことが多い。今回の日本語フォントコレクション拡大により、Google Fontsを通して、全世界のユーザーが日本語フォントが使えるようになっただけではなく、日本語という独特な言語の美しさと出会い、体験することができるのだ。

日欧韓トリリンガルのUIUX&タイポグラフィコンサルタント。専門は多言語タイポグラフィ。日本の大手タイプファウンダリにてフォントのプロジェクトマネージャーを経て、現在は個人事務所Em Dash(エムダッシュ)を立ち上げ、様々なプロジェクトに参加している。近年ではGoogle Fontsとの日本語および韓国語のフォント開発、Adobe Creative Cloudの東アジア言語のUXリサーチ&デザイン、D&AD Awards 2021にてタイプデザイン部門の審査委員などに携わっている。タイポグラフィの知識を活かし、フォントの可能性を広げ、より多くの人々に文字とフォントの楽しさを伝えていくことを目標としている。 @mintoming  AtypI presentation 

New font family: Urbanist by Corey Hu

Urbanist is a low-contrast, geometric sans-serif inspired by Modernist typography and design. The project was launched by Corey Hu in 2020 with 9 weights and accompanying italics. Conceived from elementary shapes, Urbanist's neutrality makes it a versatile display font for print and digital mediums. 

It is currently available as a variable font with a weight axis: https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Urbanist

Posted by Tobias Kunisch, Design Lead for Google Fonts