Chinese Typography Study

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Typography in Publication Design

Chinese Typography Study

Training for cultural awareness and sustainability
Choi Chi Kit Jackson, Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong, ckchoi@vtc.edu.uk Monica Chiu, Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong, monchiu@vtc.edu.hk Sylvia To, Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong, sylviato@vtc.edu.hk Abstract: This paper aims to present the unique quality of Chinese letterforms & characters, and to discuss our approach of teaching Chinese typography as a tool of nurturing cultural awareness and sustainability. Through in-depth research of traditional literature, study the philosophy from past, examine the visual symbols and tangible artifacts in the surrounding at present-day to enable students’ to translate and transform the materials into experimental typographic designs for modern communication. We believed that this is a good method for our future creative talents to engage with traditional value and essence sustainability through typography design practice. Key words: cultural awareness, Chinese aesthetics, letterform appreciation, iconic architectural elements, pictogram, philosophy, cultural identity

1. Introduction Movable types have contributed a major way of communication since the invention of printing. Today, the existence of digital media has drove typography design to a formulaic nature. For Chinese typography, the unique human philosophy contained in writing system enriched our life and soul since it’s developed by ancestors and scholars. However, the reliance of digital media made this distinctive philosophy being disregarded by many design students in Hong Kong. Since ancient time, human civilization reflected and recorded cognition towards their living environment by direct imitation to produce imagery or drawings, for example cave paintings, monumental carving and primitive written symbols. However the direct copying of objects and forms had its limitation when it came to abstract association of ideologies. During civilization development, languages were formulated and gradually migrated into two different streams: one headed to the direction replacing pictographs with phonetic system all together. Pictographs were soon replaced by alphabets; which the meaning of

words were constructed by combinations of different sound, later developed into language system with enormous amount of words. Another different direction was extension from pictograph with phonetic component and the additional association from pictographs. The former was well adopted by western world to become roman alphabets whereas the latter was Chinese characters for Chinese culture.

AaBbCcDdEeFfGg 馬魚日月江河鯉鮭從相武信上下凹凸 Chinese typography constituted a major way of communication for literature and culture sustain. Unlike roman alphabets, the meaning of Chinese characters comes with the unique combination of ancestor’s artifacts, activities, space and sounds in daily life. Even though the representation of Chinese letterforms changed according to human civilization, this unique way of writing system (漢字 Kanzì) still transmit in today’s Chinese characters since oracle bone script been found.

Horse 馬

Herd 牧

Despite the changes and amendment made along the rise and fall of dynasties, Chinese written language is basically retained with the same ancient artifacts and literature and still in used today. In some sense, we are communicating with our ancestors.


In this paper we discuss the nature and characteristics of Chinese writing system with the approach of training aims to revitalize this cultural philosophy on contemporary Chinese typography. 2. Design Principles of Chinese Character 2.1 Traditional Chinese culture in modern design context

Chinese arts and crafts development reached its peak as early as Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 8 A.D.). Lots of documents have been found such as the Kaogong ji 考工記 (1)

that

illustrated and stated rules and dimensions for architecture and decorative...
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