A Simple Request

Yesterday, I went to Breeze, one of my favorite Korean bakeries, to pick up a birthday cake for my son. After choosing a chocolate cake and paying for it, I asked the cashier if I could put some words on the cake. She handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote down, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO XUÂN.”

She told me they can’t do the thing on the letter A. I said to her, “You can’t draw two connected lines,” as I held up my hands above my head to show her the circumflex. She said, “We can only do English words.” I replied, “99% of the text is English. I just need one tiny diacritic.” Again, she said, “No, only English words. We don’t want to mess up.” I thought to myself, “She’s Korean. She’s not even American,” but I insisted, “I already paid for the cake. It’s fine if it is messed up.” She still declined.

Five minutes later, she handed me the cake. I peeped into it and the text reads, “Happy Birthday To Xuân” with the circumflex on the letter a. With delight, I said to her, “That’s perfect. Please say thanks to the cake decorator.” With a bit of defeat, she replied, “Only this time. Not next time.” I smiled and replied, “Well, there won’t be next time because I won’t come back.”

If she can’t accommodate a small request, I don’t need to buy a cake here even though this is one of my favorite bakeries. I was not asking her to draw a complicated Nôm character. I asked for a simple diacritical mark.

Adobe Animate

Recently Đán asked me for a copy of Adobe Animate. He wanted to do some cartoon animations. I am cool with that—as long as he’s not spending time on his computer playing video games too much.

Yesterday, I discovered that Animate is the new Flash. Why didn’t know know about Animate until my son asked me for it? All this time, I had the impression that Adobe killed Flash, but they made the right decision to keep it as an animated tool.

When I opened up Animate, the Flash interface brought back so much memories. I used to spend so much of my free time learning Flash and creating slideshows and typographic motions. Now Đán is doing similar thing. I hope he will joy and passion in Animate.

I played around with Animate a bit last night and it is quite a time-sucker. I am not sure if I want to get back to it, but I am happy to see it is still around. I might pick it up again in the future to create simple animations.

Questions for Design Review

Since the design mockups are secretive, I prepared questions to ask during the “unveil” meeting. These questions are strictly for the designer who doesn’t code.


  • Had you conducted any research for the redesign? If yes, can you share something you had found?


  • Have you used an accessibility tool like WebAim to check your color contrast?


  • Are we getting rid of the quick links, which is one of the most frequent use navigational item on the current site
  • How does the menu function on mobile devices?
  • Are repeated links in the footer necessary? The Nielsen Norman Group suggests, “Eliminate redundancy on webpages whenever possible to reduce cognitive overload. Each extra link makes your site harder to use.”


  • How are you planning on hosting the fonts? Local or third-party?
  • Will we be using static or variable fonts?
  • Do the fonts support beyond English? Do they include diacritics? We have quite a few faculty and staff names with diacritics such as: Helen Alvaré, Seán O’Connor, and Tammy Trần


  • We use tables for various tabular data such as course schedules. Do you have a mock-up for tables? How do tables respond to various devices? How do you sort each table column?
  • Do you have a mock-up for the faculty and staff bio page? How do you list their credentials and bio?
  • Do you have a mock-up for an emergency message at the top of the site?
  • Do you have a mock-up for a spotlight story? Are there options for including photos—algin left, align right, or full width?
  • Do you have a mock-up for the events section?
  • Do you have a mock-up for secondary pages?


  • Do we use responsive images for banners? How do they look on mobile vs. desktop?

Design System


  • What is the max width of the site?
  • Are there flexibilities for the layout?
  • Can we drop the sidebar for a full-width design?
  • Can we switch the columns around?
  • Is there a grid pattern we can choose?

Examining Design

I have been practicing digital design for over 20 years. From web to print to UX to UI to development to server administration, I have been involved in all parts of design. I even supervise designers and developers. The only part of design I haven’t done is examining design patent. I have learned that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a design department. I was so tempting to give it a try. I hesitated because I live with a patent examiner and witness all the stress she endures. She works at nights and on weekends to meet her productions. I don’t think I can handle that level of stress. In addition, I don’t want to give up the creating part of what I do. I still love crafting webpages using HTML & CSS. I still love blogging. I still love typesetting. I still love playing around with web technologies. Examining design is not for me.

Kỷ niệm 20 năm iLoveNgocLan.com

Hôm nay kỷ niệm 20 năm ngày thành lập trang iLoveNgocLan. Thời gian trôi qua nhanh quá. Cũng không ngờ rằng, tôi đã chăm sóc ngôi nhà này suốt một chặng đường dài đến bây giờ.

Để tưởng nhớ một dấu mốc, tôi cũng không biết làm gì ngoài việc đổi nét chữ mới với một chút chữ viết tay và chữ dễ đọc. Giờ đây trang nhà không còn tiếng qua lại như xưa nữa. Năm ngoái tôi cố gắng viết thường xuyên hơn nhưng vẫn không thấy động tĩnh gì cả. Những người vẫn hâm mộ Ngọc Lan đã chuyển sang Facebook và những trang mạng khác.

Năm ngoái tôi ngồi đọc lại một số bài cũ và những lời bình luận. Thì ra đã có xảy ra những lời bàn cãi mà lúc đó tôi đã không có thời gian giải quyết. Kết quả là chắc các bạn hâm mộ tiếng hát Ngọc Lan cũng đã không quay trở lại. Đành phải chịu thôi. Biết làm sao bao giờ. Cuối cùng iLoveNgocLan vẫn chỉ là một trang nhà tưởng nhớ tiếng hát vẫn luôn tồn tại trong tim những người yêu Ngọc Lan.

Tuy giờ đây trang nhà không còn sinh hoạt gì nữa, tôi vẫn giữ gìn cho đến lúc tôi không còn điều kiện gì nữa.

Scalia Law Website’s XML, Templates & Layout Patterns


Layout Patterns

  • We are using a grid-based system more than templates to give us flexible layout patterns.


Events Templates

Intranet Templates

WordPress Forms

Commission Work for Vietnamese Pop-Up Menu

A few months ago, I received an inquiry from a Vietnamese fellow to design a menu. He wrote:

Hi Donny –

Recently I’ve been more interested in my Vietnamese roots learning more about the language, food, and culture and I came across your Vietnamese Typography book. I’m a huge fan of typography and love what you’ve done here.

I’m a chef and am planning out my first pop-up and am wondering if you would be interested in designing a simple menu and/or business card for me.

I really love some of the fonts in your type recommendations here and would like to incorporate one of the fonts.

I want something relatively simple. Can talk more about it if this is something you’re interested in doing.

Please let me know!


It sounded like a fun little project. I replied:

Hello A,

Thanks for reading my book and reaching out to me. Sure, I can design a menu and a business card for you. Since I have collected a handful of typefaces Vietnamese support, I might as well put them to good use.

Do you have a logo already? Once you gather all the content for the menu and/or business card, let me know.


A responded:


I don’t have a logo yet so this is something I would like as well. I’m more interested in the menu for now and I can gather all the content for you in a week or so.

In regards to pricing—I want to get a good idea of what to expect. For something of around the same complexity as the menu I showed you in my prior email + creating a logo for me—what should I expect for this to cost (rough estimate is fine)?


I gave a few options. The prices were fair, but he said they were too expensive. I asked him for the budget:

Hi A,

How much do you want to spend? If you don’t mind letting me know, we can work within your budget. We can focus on the menu and not spend too much on the logo, but I will come up with a word mark for you to use. If you would like it you can keep it or if you would like to revisit the branding later, we can do so.

Donny Truong

A responded:


Because I am doing this as a first pop-up event and donating some of the profits—I am not looking to spend over $100 for menu creation. I envision this is something I would be more willing to spend in the future though.

I think your work is really great and you should be compensated for the value of your work, so I don’t want to undermine your work by offering such a low price.

But if you are still interested, that would be great for me. Otherwise, I can circle back to you in the future.


$100? Of course, I took the job:

Hi A,

Thanks for letting me know and the budget is understandable. Yes, do circle back when you are ready in the future.

I wish you all the best with your first pop-up event.

Donny Truong

Just kidding! Of course, I didn’t take it.

Social Media Cleansing

I am on my path to stop using social media. Not using LinkedIn has no effect on me. I hardly used LinkedIn anyway, but I still keep my account active. I miss family and friends on Facebook, especially on news such as weddings or funerals. I keep my account active to maybe check in once in a while. I wish I could mass-delete all my content on Facebook. I reactivated Twitter, but not posted anything new. I miss the type community, but I don’t want to move over to Mastodon. My only involvement in the type community is Vietnamese Typography and people can find me on that site.

The biggest issue I have is not following the web community. I need to keep myself up-to-date with the latest web developments. Unfortunately I have been out of the loop for over a decade. CSS grid and web fonts were the latest two skills I picked up. I haven’t used any JavaScript frameworks. I still write my HTML and CSS from scratch. WordPress’s block theming is beyond my knowledge. I am still using the classic editor for my blog. I wonder how long WordPress continues to support the classic editor.

I still have tremendous love for the web. I love the ability to create websites the way I wanted, not having to use someone’s codes, templates, or platforms. I still enjoy creating small websites such as Everlasting Eye Care, Thinkpoint Creative, and Kristin Bair. These sites were designed and developed using HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP. They will last forever. If I were to develop a blog from scratch, I would not know what software to choose. WordPress has moved beyond a blogging system.

In any rate, I am happy with the changes that I have made, which will allow me to spend more time offline. I am getting tired of all the social media chaos.

A Better Approach to Building Vietnamese Diacritical Marks

In his latest video, Type Designer Stephen Nixon spent 40 minutes sharing his approach for designing Vietnamese diacritics—something I had always wanted to see since I started to do research for my thesis. Even though I don’t know anything about Glyphs and RoboFont, the process looks intriguing. The best part of the video is when Stephen walks through a book called Vietnamese Typography by yours truly. Of course, I am biased.

As Stephen pointed out, designing Vietnamese diacritics seems to be intimidating at first, but with my website as a reference and some practice, you will do just fine. I am always available to review if you need feedback on your Vietnamese diacritical marks. If you’re designing a Latin typeface, you should have no excuse not supporting Vietnamese diacritics. You have all the resources you need at your fingertips; therefore, you should plan to incorporate Vietnamese diacritics early in your process.

Watch Stephen’s video for technical details. Reach out to him if you have any technical questions. Get in touch with me if you need help with your diacritical design. I charge a small fee, but we can also negotiate if your budget is tight.

Vietnamese Sample: The Tale of Kiều

Nguyễn Du’s Truyện Kiều (The Tale of Kiều) is recognized as the masterpiece of national literature. Structured in lục-bát (six-eight) couplets, Truyện Kiều, which consists of 3,254 lines, is not only a literary bible but also a national epic that has inspired political debate, social critique, and revolutionary spirit.

Last Friday, I typeset Truyện Kiều in Portada to showcase Vietnamese Typography. With Portada, ​​Veronika Burian and José Scaglione set out to create a serif family that’s as clear and readable as a sans family in digital environments. Portada is designed specifically for user interfaces as well as long reading online. Portada has extended its support for Vietnamese. In working with Vik and José on Vietnamese diacritics for Portada, I caught a glimpse of how the two talented designers collaborated. They lived up to their foundry’s name: TypeTogether. For the title, I chose Water Brush, designed by Robert Leuschke, which has a hand-drawing vibe, to give the cover a paper quality.

When I published and launched the online version of Vietnamese Typography, I created a few samples just to give type designers how Vietnamese diacritics were being applied to different applications and publications. The samples, however, have turned into small design projects for me to experiment with Vietnamese typography. In addition, they have become my collection of Vietnamese art, culture, and literature. I hope you enjoy glancing at them or reading them if you can read Vietnamese. Take a look at Truyện Kiều.