Monotype create Noto for Google: An open-source typeface family for all the world’s languages
Noto is one of the largest typographic projects ever undertaken; more than five years in the making, covering over 800 languages with over 100 writing scripts (some never digitised before), each with a harmonious look and feel.
Tofo is the nickname used to describe the blank boxes that appear when a computer or site lacks font support for a particular character. The ambitious brief from Google to Monotype of “no more tofu” which gave rise to the type family’s name.
“Our goal for Noto has been to create fonts for our devices, but we’re also very interested in keeping information alive,” he adds. “When it comes to some of the lesser-used languages, or even the purely academic or dead languages, we think it’s really important to preserve them.” Bob Jung, Google internationalization expert.
Rising to this enormous challenge Monotype coordinated an intense research effort, partnering with researchers, designers, linguists, cultural experts and project managers around the world.
The more obscure scripts required significant research to ensure the scripts adhered to their traditions and rules. Experts were consulted and direct feedback was sought from communities using the scripts.
For the Tibetan face, Monotype conducted in-depth research into a vast library of writings and then enlisted the help of Buddhist monks to critique the font and make adjustments to the design.
Sketches for Adlam (left) and Tibetan (right)
Not only will the breadth of languages covered by Noto expand the availability of information to more readers and preserve rare writing systems, the typeface is also “a digital workhorse”. It powers the text shown across Android and Chrome devices and importantly because it has been released as a suite of open source fonts it can be used any where.