Abstract / Premise
The purpose of design is to service people. Like every other art it is linked to culture and society. By viewing the design of a certain period, one can draw conclusions to their society. Why are the statues produced in the Han dynasty slim and those produced in the Tang dynasty chubby? What does it tell us about those ages? Any kind of design, whether it be graphic design, industrial design, architecture, fashion and most recently, new media, is always in the vanguard of shaping society.
Unlike any other art form, typography is close to the mind, because everything that’s written is taken down in one or another form of writing. Therefore, the development of thought, the way people think is mirrored by typography. From the wall-filling hieroglyphs of ancient egypt and the Hanzi inscribed on Zhou-dynasty bronze ware to the high style neon advertisements of our modern age.
In our age, everything becomes interlinked worldwide. In no other age known to man before, the possibilities and attempts of exchange between nationalities and cultures have been greater than today. Two important aspects in this development are the Internet and globalist economy. If there is one thing to be learned from the financial crisis of 2008, it is how much intertwined the different parts of the world already are.
The closer connections between cultures, result in the mixing of cultures and therefore in the mixing of languages. When I go out to the streets of Beijing, I see not only Hanzi, and I not only see Latin characters, but also Korean characters, Japanese characters, Arabic script, Cyrillic letters, sometimes even Mongolian or Tibetan script.
The intermixing of languages and writing systems is but a symptom of globalism. On closer examination, something falls into mind: In most cases, they don’t really look “happy” together; only external reasons – in most cases commercial interest – brought them together. When I see this kind of thing, whether in Germany or in China, I wonder: If we couldn’t find a way to let our writing systems look decent together, doesn’t that mean, that in our minds and maybe even in our hearts, we have not yet become the globalist multicultural society as which we like to see ourselves? Does the way in which Latin characters often look misplaced in Chinese texts, or how Hanzi look misplaced in English texts if not even omitted altogether, does it unmask our true thoughts about one another? I dare not answer that question, but I believe that it represents a severe communication problem of international scope. Due to its connection with writing, typography is close to thought, but it can also convey feeling, as any well-schooled designer knows. So won’t it let someone feel displeased, if the writing system, which identifies with the culture he was born into, looks diminished or “unhappy”, and wouldn’t it be good, to try to bring together different writing systems while sustaining their uniqueness and character, to express respect to those who identify with them via their culture? I believe so.
Unfortunately, in the past, language and writing have too often been also a way of oppression, by some nation trying to force their language on others or trying to forbid the writing systems of those conquered. Until today it is no uncommon notion in Europe that the Latin Alphabet will sooner or later replace every other writing system in the world, and in former ages Europeans have not been exactly known for having to much respect for other cultures, particularly those they deemed inferior. The Latin writing system owes its worldwide spreading not only to knowledge and wisdom, but also to imperialism and colonialism. The history of the perception of Hanzi by the Europeans is very telling about the way the treatment of a writing system can mirror the treatment of a culture.
In history, the prerequisites to find a good co-existence of Hanzi and Latin Letters has never been so good as today, because China and Europe are at eye level for the first time.
It is important to let people be aware of the obvious problems of bilingual typography, in both intermixed use and side-by-side use. While some Graphic Designers are aware of the problem, others, like writers, publishers and software developers seem to be still ignorant about it, because little is done to improve it. Raising awareness of the problems is required to foster additional and ongoing research on the problems.
One main goal of this thesis is to point out the problems of bilingual typgraphy, which are to be considered the most urgent, and to give suggestions, on what can be done to improve them with the existing fonts and software, as well as how software and fonts can be improved to improve the problems at the root. Through my analysis, I shall demonstrate, that achieving a harmonic intermixed and bilingual usage of Hanzi and Latin letters is not only good for ideological reasons, but also improves readability and functionality.