A descriptive framework for Chinese–English bilingual typography

Tam, K C H (2012). ‘A descriptive framework for Chinese–English bilingual typography’ in Typographische Monatsblätter, 4 | 5 | 2012, pp. 38–46

This paper introduces and discusses a comparative descriptive framework for Chinese–English bilingual typography. Using representative examples of Chinese–English typography from Hong Kong as case studies, a comparative descriptive framework that systematically describes and compares typographic attributes of the Chinese and English languages has been developed. Drawing from linguistics as well as typography theory, this comparative descriptive framework provides an important theoretical basis for the study of multilingual typography. The framework may be used to describe all possible situations in which the two languages coexist, breaking down each attribute and putting them into meaningful groupings. The framework consists of 76 attribute comparisons organised in two main classes (graphic and spatial) and 11 sub-groupings.

Trust in Chinese–English bilingual documents: a heuristic for typographic decision-making

Tam, K (2017). ‘Trust in Chinese–English bilingual documents: a heuristic for typographic decision-making’. Typography Day Sri Lanka 2017 conference proceedings. Katubedda, Sri Lanka: University of Moratuwa.

This paper explores the notion of trust in bilingual documents. A heuristic is presented, examining various levels of decision-making carried out by the producer and designer of a bilingual document that will influence the perception of trust on the reader’s part. The seven interrelated considerations are (1) producer (2) script (3) reader (4) context (5) genre (6) content (7) production. Although some of these decisions are purely strategic and invisible to the reader, this paper argues that they can always be inferred in a bilingual document’s graphic presentation. Decisions on graphic presentation work across all seven levels of consideration, establishing the status relationship between two languages as well as providing cues for readers to access a document’s rhetorical structure in myriad ways. Examples of Chinese–English bilingual documents from Hong Kong are used to illustrate the discussions. The heuristic aims to promote further discussions and research on bilingual document design issues as well as to guide practice.

The architecture of communication: the visual language of Hong Kong’s neon signs

Tam, K (2014). ‘The architecture of communication: the visual language of Hong Kong’s neon signs’, in Mobile M+ an interactive online exhibition celebrating Hong Kong’s neon signs at Hong Kong: M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. (read in Traditional Chinese)

Wolfgang Weingart’s typographic landscape

An article about the work of Swiss typographic designer Wolfgang Weingart. Based on a questions and answers session in Vancouver in March, 2001. This article was written for the Polish design magazine 2+3D. A full transcript of the Q&A session is also included here.

The revival of slab-serif typefaces in the 20th century

An essay that traces the historical developements of slab-serif typefaces in the 20th century.

Calligraphic tendencies in the development of sanserif type in the twentieth century

Sanserif typefaces are often perceived as something inextricably linked to the ideals of Swiss modernism. They are also often thought of as something as far as one can get from calligraphic writing. Yet, throughout the twentieth century and especially in the past decade or so, the design of sanserif typefaces have been consistently inspired by calligraphic writing. This paper hence explores the relationship between calligraphic writing and the formal developments of sanserif typefaces in the twentieth century. Although type design is an inherently different discipline from writing, conventions of calligraphic did and till do impose certain important characteristics on the design of typefaces that modern readers expect. This paper traces and analyses the formal developments of sanserif typefaces through the use of written forms. It gives a historical account of the development fo sanserif typefaces by charting six distinct phases of sanserif designs that were in some ways informed by calligraphic writing: (1) Humanist sanserifs: Britain 1900s (2) Geometric sanserifs: 1920s–30s (3) Contrast sanserifs: 1920s–50s (4) Sanserif as a book type: 1960s–80s (5) Neo-humanist sanserifs: 1990s. Three primary ways to create calligraphic writing, namely the broadnib pen, flexible pointed pen and monoline pen are studied and linages drawn to how designers imitate or subvert the concentions of these tools. These studies are put into historical perspective and links made to the contexts of use. The focus of this dissertation is on typefaces that are generally known as humanist sans; grotesques and neo-grotesques are not included in the discussions.