Aesthetics of Chinese Typefaces

When it comes to publication design, image processing, layout design and composition need to be handled carefully for an aesthetically pleasing look. Choosing the right typeface is also a major decision because typefaces are a powerful visual element that helps elevate the emotion evoked by the text. It is as if choosing the right book cover for the book. However, as Chinese characters contain many components and strokes and have a more complex structure than English alphabets, the available options of font typefaces in Chinese is much less than in western typography. Therefore, there has always been a great demand for Chinese typefaces. Brands are also going after fonts that have a unique personality that best reflects their brand identity and communicate their core values, which is why more designers are dabbling in the field of Chinese typeface design to infuse a modern aesthetics to Chinese typefaces.

There are approximately 17 thousand Chinese traditional words. It costs a lot to create a complete set of Chinese fonts and there are different requirements to meet in terms of the design: It is necessary to preserve the Chinese characters’ aesthetics while catering to the demands of brands or the society, not to mention the time involved. Today, we will show you some new Chinese fonts which breathe new life into Chinese characters and leave a fresh impression on people.


1. Lee Hon Kong Kai

Credit: Queenie Ho

If you happen to live in Hong Kong, have you ever noticed the handwritten Chinese characters on Hong Kong old signs? In fact, they are all the work of the calligrapher Mr. Lee Hon. You might not have heard of his name, but you have definitely seen one of his works somewhere in Hong Kong. Back in the old days, where computers were not common, Mr. Li Hon were the one who wrote the words on Hong Kong sign boards. The imposing and ferocious font that has a vulgar feeling to it marks the collective memory of Hong Kongers. After Mr.Li passed away, Mr. Lee Kin Ming digitalised Mr.Li’s manuscript, hoping to pass on this set of font that represents Hong Kong’s style calligraphy. Earlier this week, the ‘Beyond Hong Kong Font’ exhibition the story of Lee Hon Kong Kit was held to let all of us to relive the story of Lee Hon Kong Kai.

Credit: Queenie Ho
Credit: Queenie Ho

2. KongMing font

KongMing font空明朝體 /

Designed by a Hong Konger Julius Hui, the KongMing font retains the beauty of traditional Ming font in Late Qing dynasty with a sleek presentation. To perfect the design, the font designer also spent half a year to study the design of Chinese characters in the Song dynasty, where Chinese characters were still in traditional form and were not influenced by western aesthetics. The kerning and line spacing of the font are adjusted, increasing the white space between characters and lines, to create a room for breathing. The breath flowing through every word makes the layout more appealing to read.

KongMing font空明朝體 /

KongMing font was once used on Taiwanese band group’s album cover


3. Kick Ass Font

勁揪體 Kick Ass Font

Every font comes with its own story. The birth of the Kick Ass Font dates back to the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Back in that time, designer Kit Man was invited to write the words ‘我要真普選’ (Chinese for I Want Universal Suffrage) on a protest banner, which had engraved on Hong Konger’s memory. A crowdfunding was then carried out for creating the font set of 6,000 traditional Chinese characters. From a traditional perspective, the Kick Ass Font is not in tuned with the Chinese calligraphy rules, and it contains quite a number of swear words or colloquial words you don’t find in other fonts. As rude as it seems, it is an evidence of Hong Kong people’s beliefs. To create the font, the designer first writes in ink. After drying, he scans the manuscript and fine-tunes the size and strokes, repeating the steps for over 6,000 words. Each character consists of strong, bold and clear strokes, which show Hong Kong people’s determination to preserve Cantonese and traditional Chinese characters.

Kick Ass Font is a trace of Hong Kong society movements
Kick Ass Font is a trace of Hong Kong society movements


4. Mechanic Font

機械明朝 Mechanic Font / Makkaihang Design Facebook

The ‘Milling Font’ is a font commonly used on signboards in most Hong Kong old buildings. The old practices of creating the font on a milling machine give each character a consistent stroke width with a round end. Since the characters are hand-carved using the milling machine, the ‘milling font’ we find in different buildings can look slightly different from another. Inspired by this unique font style and structure, designer Mak-Kaihang created the ‘Mechanic Font’ (機械明朝) infused with the aesthetics of the Ming font to explore the possibilities of Chinese characters.

囉機字 Milling Font @ citytype_hk
機械明朝Mechanic Font / Makkaihang Design Facebook


5.Tears Font

淚體 Tears Font / Justfont

Taiwanese designer Yang ChungLieh took inspiration from tears and created the Tears Font. The font comprised of tear-like strokes is infused with the straight and slender structure of Ming Font, the modern aesthetics of rounded fonts, the delicacy of calligraphy. Adding in the characters of words written by technical pens, the font has a wider spot at the end of each stroke as if the ink pools around it. Space is deliberately left between certain strokes to allow rooms for breathing. The Tears Font was awarded the ‘People’s Choice’ award at the Morisawa Type Design Competition in 2016.

淚體 Tears Font / Justfont
淚體 Tears Font / Justfont


6. Ri Ri Xin

日日新 Ri Ri Xin / Justfont

The bubbly rounded font Ri Ri Xin feels amiable and appealing, which sets it apart from traditional calligraphy. The font is like a revamp of the handwritten characters loaded with a ‘modern’ style found on the newspaper during the period from meiji to showa in Taiwan. Designer Chen Guan-Ying studied the structure and composition of this ‘modern’ font and had created the ‘Ri Ri Xin’ font based upon it. The start and end of each stroke give off a handwriting vibe, with each rounded corner finely adjusted to take us back to the retro moments.

The handwritten rounded characters on Taiwan newspaper during the period from meiji to showa.
日日新 Ri Ri Xin/ Justfont



1. 可曾留意,你正在閱讀的文字,都有其一套美學?| 夠POP

2. 日日新:摩登時代的字型提案 | Justfont

3. 浮出水面的造字運動!專訪金萱體、台灣道路體、淚體等新字型的催生者 | Lavie

4. Makkaihang Design Facebook

5. 優秀的漢字設計必包含了設計師對華人文化的認同和熱情—許瀚文 | Design Perspectives


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