The Adobe font, named Source Han Sans, is a new open source offering for the company’s Pan-CJK typeface family.
Google is simultaneously releasing its own version of this font under the name Noto Sans CJK as part of a plan to build out its Noto Pan-Unicode font family. Both sets, developed in collaboration, are identical except for the name and will serve 1.5 billion people — roughly a quarter of the world’s population.
The new typeface family is available in seven weights, supporting Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese, all in one font.
“The design is relatively modern in style, but it has simple strokes and is monolinear so it makes text clear and readable on small devices such as tablets and smartphones,” said Nicole Minoza, Adobe’s product marketing manager.
“Because it’s a sans serif typeface, it’s a workhorse font — good for a single line of text or a short phrase or something you might see in a software menu, as well as longer strings of text that would appear in an ebook or a printed publication.”
Each font weight in the family has a total of 65,535 glyphs (the maximum number of characters supported in the OpenType format), and the entire family contains just under half a million total glyphs.
“Not only are the open source fonts free, but users can extend and modify them,” Minoza said. “They would have the right to add Vietnamese characters, for example. Hardware and software manufacturers can install the fonts on their devices. There’s a really big audience and the licensing rights for open source makes it good for device manufacturers.”
Discussions around creating a Pan-CJK font started about 15 years ago at Adobe, but the company couldn’t get beyond the overall cost in terms of time and resources.
With this joint project, Adobe was able to contribute its design, technical skill, in-country type experience, coordination and automation, while letting Google take control of the logistics for project direction, defining requirements, in-country testing of resources and expertise and funding.
To make sure the font was authentic for native readers, Adobe sought expertise from foundries such as Iwata Corp. to expand the Japanese glyph selection, Sandoll Communication, designer of Korean Hangul (the Korean language native alphabet) and Changzhou SinoType, Adobe’s longtime collaborator in China.
Each foundry was assigned a different task for a unique contribution to the project. Said Minoza, “Iwata fleshed out the original Japanese design, which was provided to our other partners. Sandoll created the Hangul characters from scratch — and they needed to make sure they harmonized with the other characters as well as with the Latin characters — and SinoType not only had to expand the Chinese glyph sets but they had to analyze each of the glyphs to make sure they satisfied regional considerations.
“There are a lot of instances and regional variations for the characters even though they all evolved from the same character originally.” The new font also features Hong Kong and Taiwanese character sets.
Ryoko Nishizuka, an Adobe senior designer on the Tokyo type team, created the overall type design from which the other language variations are derived.