Google is working hard to eliminate tofu. However, not the tofu you enjoy in your pad thai, but the boxes your computer uses to indicate your device can’t display a certain character. Working with Monotype, Google has announced the Noto (no more tofu) Project.
After some research (and Googling to understand all the crazy tech language), we got a grasp on why this is important. It’s important to support for most common languages like English, Chinese or Russian come standard with your devices. However, people read and write in hundreds (maybe thousands) of languages. So, when you branch into the less common ones there may be little to no options for digital typefaces. That’s where tofu comes in and replaces your letters with rectangular boxes. Not cool.
So how does it work?
Noto is a typeface that includes characters for as many languages as possible, while keeping them at least distantly related. Every character has a similar weight, while also repeating common shapes. All characters align to an imaginary line that bisects the Latin alphabet. Hence, creating a sense of cohesiveness through the entire font.
To us this seems impossible, considering English letters are linear and geometric, Arabic is heavily horizontal strokes, and some fonts, like Runic, are so rare that Monotype and Google used stone engravings for inspiration. However, from what we’ve seen these crazy Googlers nailed it – the font is crisp, modern, and unified; an impressive feat to say the least.
If solving the usability issue while maintaining a semblance of continuity wasn’t enough – this project is also working to keep information alive. Bob Jung, the director of internationalization for Google said: “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 Noto Project is considered the biggest typographic project in recent times – including 100 writing systems, 100,000 characters and 800 languages so far. If this isn’t impressive enough, it’s not even done yet! Google and Monotype are still working on it and want to continue adding scripts in the future.
The best part about this project: the font is free for all!
*select images from Monotype