The Chinese Type Archive is a “Wikipedia for Chinese typography”

Created by Synoptic Office, the open data resource aims to support designers looking to use Chinese type, with an archive of typefaces and information on their designs to boot.

29 January 2020


Synoptic Office has launched the Chinese Type Archive, a volunteer-run, open data resource aiming to help designers looking to use Chinese typography in their work. It features a catalogue of 230 typefaces, definitions and resources, with information in both English and Chinese, explaining the composition of characters and the design of typefaces, and giving insight into their histories.

Co-founded by Caspar Lam and YuJune Park, assistant professors of Communication Design at the Parsons School of Design, Synoptic Office has designed extensively for US and Chinese clients. Finding a lack of discourse around Chinese typographic design in both China and the English-speaking design world, the duo set out to create a more accessible resource, to better inform and support designers using the language in graphic design work.

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

Hence, the Chinese Type Archive compiles typefaces and resources related to Chinese typography, with the aim to “serve as a catalyst for research and discussion.” Park continues how the new platform is “a meeting place where people can contribute and get information – a kind of Wikipedia for Chinese type.” The data is compiled by a team of students and graduates from Parsons School of Design and RISD, and the platform is funded in part by the American Institute of Graphic Arts Design Educators Community grant and the Parsons School of Design General Research Fund.

As many of the typefaces catalogued are un-named or were named after the printer, the archive includes new names for the typefaces and a stable ID number to help designers differentiate between the designs more easily and effectively.

While the current platform intends to act as a directory of design history, and foster the dialogue, use and evolution of Chinese typography in a globalised context, Lam and Park have plans to grow the archive to feature tools and methods for typographic analysis and data publishing. They are also looking for more volunteer collaborators, submissions and corrections, while the platform continues to develop.

GallerySynoptic Office: Chinese Type Archive

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Synoptic Office: Chinese Type Archive

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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