Synoptic Office Launches Open Source Archive of Chinese Typefaces

Synoptic Office Launches Open Source Archive of Chinese Typefaces

Synoptic Office has launched Chinese Type Archive, a volunteer-run, open data resource that will bring awareness and discussion around Chinese typefaces for designers. The archive aims to support designers who use Chinese typography by developing descriptors for concepts and typefaces, as well as archiving related and relevant visual examples. The Archive features a growing catalog of over 230 Chinese typefaces, definitions, and resources with information in both English and Chinese.

Synoptic Office was co-founded by Caspar Lam and YuJune Park, Assistant Professors of Communication Design at the Parsons School of Design. As Synoptic Office, Park and Lam have designed extensively for both US and Chinese markets. Years ago, when working on projects like Vogue China, they discovered a distinct lack of design discourse surrounding Chinese typography in both China and the English-speaking design world.

"While calligraphy (hand-written forms) has been extensively cataloged and studied in China, the same methodical attention has not been given to Chinese typography (type made for print and screen) until recently," Lam said. "As a result, there is no strong shared language of typography for designers to use."

To remedy this, Synoptic Office set out to combine their academic and design expertise to compile and catalog resources related to Chinese typography, aiming to make them open and accessible to the widest possible audience of designers. "We hope this archive will serve as a catalyst for research and discussion, a meeting place where people can contribute and get information - a kind of Wikipedia for Chinese type," Park added.

Because many of the typefaces cataloged are un-named or were named after the printer, the archive includes new names for the typefaces and more importantly, a stable ID number to help designers differentiate and use them with more ease.

The archive uses a broad collections approach to capture design history and foster the dialogue, use, and evolution of Chinese typography in a globalized context. Future efforts include tools and methods for typographic analysis and data publishing.

The Chinese Type Archive is an ongoing, collaborative effort run by volunteers, funded in part by the American Institute of Graphic Arts Design Educators Community grant and the Parsons School of Design General Research Fund. Park and Lam welcome collaborators, submissions, and corrections.

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