Primer on Chinese typography
From Dheera Venkatraman, Graduate student at MIT:
Since media is mentioned, I’m assuming this is more about modern typography. Traditionally there are a number of styles of writing, such as 篆書 (seal script), 隸書 (clerical script), 行書 (semi-cursive), 草書 (calligraphic/cursive). As for fonts in modern times, here are some of the basic categories of fonts that you would see referred to in general-use typefaces (these are terms like sans-serif and serif would be to a western typographer) and an example of one such font.
Note that there are many fonts made within a particular category. Just like Arial, Gill Sans and Helvetica are all different sans serif typefaces, there exist multiple fonts that are of the Ming/Song category, for instance (such as for example Microsoft’s and Arphic’s varieties).
明體 Mingti or 宋體 Songti
There are many other variations of course; take a trip to the website of 文鼎科技 Arphic Technology ( http://www.arphic.com/ ), one of the largest Chinese type foundries, and see the Font Gallery (字體藝廊) section. They make some of the most widely-used fonts in the publishing industry.
You can also find fonts that reflect some of the older ways of writing. For example, here’s a 隸書 Lishu (clerical) font:
There are also fonts that emulate the “look” of older ways of writing but are actually modern, such as this one, which emulates the look of seal script but isn’t written as seal script would be.
There are also “cursive” fonts which mostly look terrible for text (not only because they entirely undermine the meaning of calligraphic writing in Chinese, but also that it looks horrible when the same characters are repeated identically) but there are a few limited places in publication where they might be of use. For anything real such as a logo or couplet, it’s better to get a skilled calligrapher to do it by hand and then digitise it.
As with western characters, there are also a slew of other fonts. Some are useful for comical contexts, others for headlines, etc. Here’s a small selection from what I could find on my computer.
Punctuation also differs regionally. Most Traditional Chinese regions tend to put the commas and periods in the middle and use 「corner brackets for quotations」 whereas most Simplified Chinese regions tend to put the punctuation at the bottom (like English) and use western quotation marks. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but it helps to use fonts and typographic styles that fit your audience.
One thing that’s particularly annoying about desktop publishing and typography in Chinese is that different fonts have varying degrees of completeness. For example, some of the “fun” fonts only have the most commonly used 1000-2000 characters, which is enough for fun labels, logos or advertisements, they cannot be relied upon for general use such as newspaper text or headlines. A lot of fonts support either simplified or traditional and not both, further complicating life for the desktop publisher. If you’re creating a regularly-issued publication, you have to pick your fonts not just based on your current work, but also for future usability.
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