Thy Ha

Up? Down? Left? Right? - Experiencing Vietnamese diacritics in the type design process

Abstract

Designers and typographers nowadays have more options to choose typefaces in their design compared to one-hundred years ago as the typeface design industry is growing fast recently. New font families are released every day from sans-serif to display typefaces since the needs of customised typefaces. Additionally, the demand for multilingual typefaces is increasing as well, especially those who support minority languages or non-Latin languages. Nonetheless, the majority of typefaces can only support English or other languages that lack diacritical marks. For some languages, those diacritics are the fundamental and compulsory standards (Cheng 2006). Particularly in the Vietnamese language, those diacritical marks are the essential factors for native readers to recognise and interpret the text (Trương 2015). Sometimes typing Vietnamese characters with diacritics on webpages is difficult as they will only present little square boxes or default fonts instead of chosen fonts. On the other hand, some typefaces contain a full set of diacritic glyphs but with wrong positioning. This misplaced positioning utterly changes the meaning of the text and leads to incorrect interpretation of readers (Turčić 2011).

The goal of this practice-based research aims to establish an analytical framework for typographers, type designers, and designers to look at and follow as references. It will describe the historical context of the Vietnamese writing system and discuss the details of Vietnamese diacritics as well as the appropriate way of positioning them. Besides, the research shows the implementation by creating two different fonts as an application of the design system generated from the learnings.

  • The purpose of the Phase 1 was to look into the literature and analyse practice precedents as existing typefaces that already support Vietnamese. Also, the monospaced font was started to design from here. While looking at the typewriter resources, the interesting fact was in order to type letters with diacritics on the Vietnamese typewriter, typists have to type the diacritics first by pressing the dead keys and then the base letter.
  • The purpose of the Phase 1 was to look into the literature and analyse practice precedents as existing typefaces that already support Vietnamese. Also, the monospaced font was started to design from here. While looking at the typewriter resources, the interesting fact was in order to type letters with diacritics on the Vietnamese typewriter, typists have to type the diacritics first by pressing the dead keys and then the base letter.
  • In Phase 2, the process moved on with drawing a display font. Some interesting insights have been noted like the synchronised design of the letters and diacritics, the narrow width of monospaced fonts, the different positioning of the diacritics, or the tight leading for stackable diacritics.
  • In Phase 2, the process moved on with drawing a display font. Some interesting insights have been noted like the synchronised design of the letters and diacritics, the narrow width of monospaced fonts, the different positioning of the diacritics, or the tight leading for stackable diacritics.
  • In Phase 3, a diacritic design system has been built based on the literature, the insights and challenges from Phase 1 and 2. The monospaced font was modified to troubleshoot the stackable problems. The details of system and the whole process explained in the guidebook which was the main outcome of Phase 3.
  • In Phase 3, a diacritic design system has been built based on the literature, the insights and challenges from Phase 1 and 2. The monospaced font was modified to troubleshoot the stackable problems. The details of system and the whole process explained in the guidebook which was the main outcome of Phase 3.
  • Artefacts

  • Select Bibliography

    1.Gaultney, V 2002, Problems of diacritic design for Latin script text faces, UK thesis, SIL International Publications, viewed 1 September 2019, https://www.sil.org/resources/archives/9816.

    2.Trương, D 2018, Vietnamese Typography, Donny Trương, viewed 23 July 2019, https://vietnamesetypography.com.

    3.Microsoft, 2017, Character design standards - Diacritics for Latin 1, Microsoft, https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/develop/character-design-standards/diacritics.