Understanding Vietnamese Typography

For my independent design project to complete my graduate journey in the spring of 2015, I wanted to tackle a subject that suits both my personal interest and creative passion. I have thought about this project when I first began the program. I wanted to do something related to music (jazz, hip-hop, or Vietnamese) or typography. In the summer of last year, I finally settled on the topic that I am excited about: Vietnamese typography. I am passionate about typography and Vietnamese is deeply personal.

As I become more conscious of typography, I realize that fonts that support Vietnamese writing is extremely limited. The combine of online font services from Typekit and Google Fonts featured thousands of fonts, and yet only a handful could be used to display proper Vietnamese characters. As I am browsing Vietnamese publications to read news or music, many sites, 99% of the time, are still using default system fonts such as Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman.

With those two issues in mind, the purpose for this project is to introduce the Vietnamese writing system and its unique typographic features to two types of audiences. First, my goal is to help type designers to understand the nuances of Vietnamese letters so they could expand their fonts library to support Vietnamese language. Second, my intention is to guide web and graphic designers in using correct Vietnamese typography in their work.

When I first began my research on the topic, I find my sources to be very limited. The most resources I found were books and only posts on Vietnamese grammar. Nevertheless, they gave me a good start. During the summer of last year, I began putting together a rough draft with the resources that I had combined. I sent the draft to my friend whose language skills are equally impressive in both Vietnamese and English. She sent me back with so much valuable feedback that I have decided to do more research and rewrite everything.

I started doing all of this work before my it was approved for my final project. I didn’t realize that I needed approval until I signed up with an advisor this year to do my research for the project. Luckily when I presented my concept, it was approved immediately. I am now in the process of finding more sources and digesting everything. I have already changed my plan from my original direction, but I still get plenty of time to work on it.