Google has released its largest typeface project ever. Noto is an open-source font in over 800 languages and 100 writing scripts. It was designed by and for people who hate tofu. No, we aren’t talking about coagulated bean curds. “Tofu” is coding lingo for that little box that shows up where a glyph, unknown or missing character should appear. Noto is short for ”no more tofu”. The goal was as simple as it was ambitious: create usable fonts for all scripts in the Unicode standard.
The collaboration between Google and typeface foundry, Monotype, took over five years. Eliminating all tofu in every language required creating over 100,000 unique characters. It involved people you would expect (researchers, designers, linguists and project managers) along with those you might not (Buddhist monks who evaluated the Tibetan language fonts and made suggestions for legibility and cultural accessibility). Steve Matteson, who led the project and is creative type director for Monotype, says the ultimate goal is for Noto to be the go-to for “communicating across multiple cultures and societies”.
In many cases, the fonts produced by the Noto team are the first ever created in a given language. Tibetan – the classic language of Buddhism – and has no typographic tradition. In order to create an accurate and aesthetically pleasing Tibetan letterforms, designer Toshi Omagari studied calligraphic strokes and desired forms in traditional writing before replicating them digitally.
Bob Jung, director of internationalization of Google, describes the project as an important preservation effort in addition to being a game changer for international type communication. “Our goal for Noto has been to create fonts for our devices, but we’re also very interested in keeping information alive. When it comes to some of these lesser used languages, or even the purely academic or dead languages, we think it’s really important to preserve them.” The Phags Pa, Inscriptional Pahlavi, Brahmi and Canadian Aboriginal typefaces are some of our favorites within the collection.
Noto is one of the best free fonts we’ve seen this year. You can download it here.