Releasing The Second Edition of Vietnamese Typography

Completely redesigned, revised, and expanded, the second edition of Vietnamese Typography takes on a bolder visual direction to provide more useful information, supply more illustrations, and feature new typefaces. For the new design, I wanted to turn the website into a rich browsing experience that is similar to a coffee table–worthy book.

The page is structured in a four-column fluid layout using CSS Grid. It is fully responsive from small devices to large screens without limiting the width of the browser. The columns changes from one to two-two to one-three depending how large the screen it. The larger the screen, the larger the illustrations. The size of the body text remains constant.

The text face is set in Fern, designed by David Jonathan Ross for reading text on the screen. I loved Fern the first time I spotted it on his sample page. When I was thinking a typeface for the second edition of this book, I immediately thought of Fern, but it did not support Vietnamese. I reached out to David to see if he would like to expand it some time in the future. Shortly after our exchange, David began to work on it. The first draft he sent me, I thought I have received a special gift. I went through every single diacritical mark and provided him my feedback. He nailed it on the second draft. I am so happy to have played a role in this elegant, grace typeface.

In addition to Fern, I used Roslindale, also by David, for headers. Subheads and captions are set in Retina, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones. I added Exchange, also by Tobias, for the quotes. Besides these four typefaces, I included 40 more typefaces throughout the site. Needless to say, I wanted to have as many typefaces as possible. This is the opposite approach of my conservative view web typography: Only use what you need.

In this new edition, I did not enlist any editors. My friends were already generous enough with their time helping me out with the first edition; therefore, I don’t want to ask for anymore of their precious time. I would have loved to hire an editor, but I did not get enough financial support from the first edition.

For the second edition, I thought of putting it behind the paywall or just release the print edition, but I still love the open web. I have invested tremendous time and energy into the second edition and my hope for the return of investment is still slim. Again, if you find this book useful, please consider supporting the effort.

Scalia Law Switches to Pelago

The typography on Scalia Law School website has been swapped from Myriad Pro to Pelago. The primary reason is readability.

Myriad Pro is a classic workhorse typeface designed by Carol Twombly and Robert Slimbach. Pelago is a newer typeface designed by Robert Slimbach. Although Pelago has a much smaller family than Myriad Pro, its open counter makes better readability for online text. Its letterforms are less geometric and more natural for reading than Myriad Pro. Its numbers are also more legible.

We still keep Myriad Pro for big headlines, but the body text is Pelago. Because the typefaces are so similar, we made the swap without changing anything in the CSS. I am not sure if casual readers would notice the change, but it looks refreshing.

Visualgui 2018: Iteration 4

In less than two months of the recent redesign, I am releasing the forth iteration of this blog. Most elements, including the logo, the typefaces, and the brand colors, stay the same. The drastic different is the new grid layout. I am still experimenting with CSS Grid. Mad kudos to Jen Simmons (I can’t wait to see her new site), Rachel Andrew , and Chen Hui Jing for paving the way for making web layout with grids.

For colors, I am playing around with some random, subtle colors to jazz the design up a bit. Hit refresh and you’ll see a different color background. I’ll add more in the future.

In the previous iteration, I liked the masking effect I did with the logo, but it felt steal after a while, especially when I didn’t have things that I really liked to promote. As a result, I just want to get back to the constant logo.

As for WordPress, it works the way I wanted for this blog. I deliberately keep the theme bare bone so I can make quick changes whenever I wanted to. I spent a couple of hours last night whipping up this theme. I hope that the Gutenberg project, which will be implemented into WordPress core in the future, won’t affect my design. Here’s yet another intriguing Gutenberg critic.

In the footer of this blog, I brought back a blogroll to sites I still read. I hope to see more people writing on their own site instead on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, or third-party platforms. My Feedly has lots more subscriptions, but I only link to blogs that are updated frequently. I hope to add more from time to time.

Also in the footer, I added a support column. After listening to how John Gruber and Jason Kottke got their readers to support their blogs, I wanted to give it a shot. I am not doing any display ad, membership, or sponsorship. If you enjoy reading this blog, just show me some love. Buy me a cup of coffee or a bottle of Don Julio to help fuel my thoughts. You can contribute in any amount. Someday I might follow their footstep and do this full time. For now blogging is still my hobby and I am still very passionate about it.

I Love Ngọc Lan Refreshed

The new has shipped. It needed a fresh look as well as cleaner and leaner codes. I took out a handful of divs in the markup and rewrote all the CSS.

For the homepage header, I wanted to pair up typography with photography. I returned to one if my favorite display typefaces Memoriam by Patrick Griffin. Its elegant curves and swaying rhythms are a perfect match for Ngọc Lan’s styles. The name of the typeface also fits well with the purpose of the site: remembering one of the beloved Vietnamese singers.

For the text face, I wanted to switch it up a bit. I went with Nunito Sans, which is based on Nunito by Vernon Adams. Jacques Le Bailly has done a phenomenal job of extending the typeface to a full set of weights. Nunito Sans is not only clean and beautiful, but also supports the Vietnamese language. The best part is that Nunito Sans is an open source typeface.

Furthermore, I had incorporated some subtle animations into the banners and wordmark. The site is still powered by WordPress. I hope Ngọc Lan’s fans will enjoy the new design.

Visualgui 2018: Iteration 3

Iteration 3 of Visualgui 2018 is here to celebrate Vietnamese New Year. I started iteration 2, but decided to skip it. For this update, I made the logo bigger—much bigger. Fit, designed by David Jonathan Ross, works much better at a large size. Since this is a blog and a personal playground, I am not too worried about it being over the top. To beef up the design, I turned the logo into a graphical element, particularly on the homepage. I want to bring some soul into my blog.

I changed the headings from Tenez, designed by Rodrigo Saiani, to Rhododendron, designed by David Jonathan Ross. Although I still love Tenez, I could not resist Rhododendron’s bold and fun characters—the double-story g in particular. Of course, Rhododendron comes with Vietnamese diacritics. You can get Rhododendron by joining the Font of the Month. It has been so much fun receiving these beautiful display typefaces on the first day of each month. I can’t believe it will be a year in April. I hope David will continue this fun project.

The text face is still Ten Oldstyle, designed by Robert Slimbach. In iteration 2, I switched the body text to Pelago, also designed by Slimbach, but I just can’t use a sans serif typeface for reading text. I am still old school like that. Pelago, however, is still being used for small texts. It works really well as an UI typeface.

CSS Grid is still lots of fun to play with. Making web layout is such a joyful these days. I don’t have to wrestle with floats and all that jazz. That’s it for now, but I am sure I will make changes in the couple of months. Every time I do this, I remember Zeldman in the early late 90s and early 2000s. These days, designers don’t do redesign their own sites as much any more because of the increasing complexity of web design. It doesn’t have to be.

New Work: America

Just launched a brand new website for America to pitch a film script for F.H. Buckley who is the Foundation Professor at George Mason University Scalia Law School.

Since the goal is to provide information including synopsis, historical research, and story setting, about the film, the site needs to be clean, simple, accessible, and fast. Typography plays a huge role in the design; therefore, I combined Oswald, by Vernon Adams, with Spectral, by Production Type.

With a modest budget, Buckley could have thrown the site together and put it on Squarespace, but he chose my service instead. The result is that his doesn’t look like one of Squarespace’s thousands of templated designs. These days, I can spot a Squarespace website without even looking at the code.

New Logo

You probably already noticed the little square at the top left corner on this site. Yes, it is indeed a new logo for Visualgui. Why a logo now and what does it mean?

Since the launched of this site in 2004, I have always struggled with designing a logo for it. I had designed countless versions and none had met my satisfaction. It got to the point where I just pick a typeface and let it go. In the past few weeks during winter break, I started to play around with it again. I wanted to define what Visualgui is.

When I first decided on my domain name, I loved the site called SK Visual. The site surprisingly still exists; however, its earlier version was much nicer. I just loved the word visual. Then I saw some domain names that were on sell, including one called I thought it was kind of funny so I put the two together and ended up with Visualgui. Although Visualgui intended as a visual/design guy, the GUI part has a double entendre of Graphical User Interface. I just ran with it without a clear definition. At first, the site was meant to be my design portfolio. It changed completely when I started to blog. Only two years ago, I decided to separate my personal blog from my professional portfolio. Only this year I have my own name for my domain.

For Visualgui, I wanted to keep it as my blog for as long as I can. Does it really need a logo? Probably not. Who cares? No one, but myself. So it is more or less for me. Because of the name, I wanted to be as legible as possible because Visualgui is really vague. Using a sans serif typeface would solve that issue, but then it is not that unique. So I wanted to experiment with a bit with using squares in a grid. In the previous version, I played around with nine squares (similar to a Rubik’s Cube) and added Futura in each square to spell out Visualgui. It looked kind of cool, but without the letters, they were just nine squares. Then I remember Fit by David Jonathan Ross, which I had helped him a bit on Vietnamese diacritics. With Fit, I could fit each letter into each square. At a large size, each letter looks great. The small size, however, is not so legible. The letters started to look like shapes, but they are not the same. I like the ambiguousness of it just like the name of the site.

There are many opportunities I can do with this logo. I wish I could do the whole branding exercise for it just like what I have done in grad school, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. I also want to spend some more time with it too see if I am going to change it again in the near future. For now, it works for me.

New Year New Domain

All these years for some odd reasons I have not thought of getting my own domain for my name until this past New Year’s Day. I can’t even recall how it came to me, but I was surprised to find out that was available. I guess no one wants it, except me. Without much thinking, I snatched it immediately.

In the past two days off from work and one sleepless night, I migrated my portfolio from ON Designs to name. ON Designs is now redirecting to my new domain until it expires in June. ON Designs was one of those ideas that came too mind as the moment, but then it became too gimmicky. Omit Needless Designs plays off omit needless words. It is not that clever after all.

In the migration process, I made some design changes as well. I converted one-column layout to a grid-based design. I reduced the number of projects down to just six pieces that show varieties and my design sensibility. For typography, I set Roslindale Text as text face and Bild as headings. Both of these typefaces designed by David Jonathan Ross. I am trying to put my Font of the Month Club membership to good use.

There are more tweaks to be done, but I just want to put it out there.

Visualgui 2018

Continuing with the tradition, I try to redesign this site at least once a year. Visualgui 2018 is an incremental change rather than a complete overhaul. 2018 is built upon 2017. The focus is still readability and typography.

In this new design, my goal is to go fullscreen even on large desktop. Display texts and headings will span across the screen at any size. With my subscription for Font of the Month Club, I intend to use large typography for the hero banner on the homepage. I had stopped using images on this site for a long time and I have not missed them. Typography will continue to be the dominate feature on this site.

For reading, I am staying with Alda, designed by Berton Hasebe. While there are a handful of text faces that support Vietnamese characters, Alda remains the strongest contender. Its diacritics are sturdy and legible. For headings, I am going with the beautiful Tenez, designed by Rodrigo Saiani, even though its diacritical marks are not quite there for me yet. Rodrigo, if you want to improve Vietnamese accents, I am more than happy to help. Small text is set in Pelago, designed by Robert Slimbach. Its open counter works well at small size. Unlike previous versions, I try to use at least three or four typefaces at a time.

For colors, I am keeping the red, but changing the background to a subtle color. I want to move away from pure white background but still comfortable to read. I am also taking advantage of CSS Grid for layout. I hope you enjoy the new look and feel.

Some Updates

Made the text bigger for ON Designs. I also changed the typeface to Pelago a few weeks ago. I like the openness of this latest sans-serif typeface designed by Robert Slimbach.

For Thơ Mưa, I switched the typeface from Cormorant Garamond to EB Garamond, which has been expanded recently by Georg Duffner and Google Fonts. EB is much more legible than Cormorant, the diacritics in particular.

Put together a site to promote Learn. Challenge. Lead. I modified WordPress’s Twenty Seventeen a bit to fit Scalia Law branding. Twenty Seventeen is a decent theme for this sort of promotional site.

As you might have already noticed, I had changed the headings for this site to Halyard Display, designed by Joshua Darden. Just wanted something bold and different. This site is now using four typefaces.