Noto: A CJK Font That is Complete, Beautiful and Right for Your Language and Region

July 15, 2014

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By Xiangye Xiao, Stuart Gill, and Jungshik Shin,
Google Text and Font Team, Internationalization Engineering

Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) readers represent approximately one quarter of the world’s population. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible to all users no matter what language they use. To that end, Google, in cooperation with our partner Adobe, has released a free, high-quality Pan-CJK font family: Noto Sans CJK. These fonts are intended to provide a richer and more beautiful reading experience to the East Asian community in many OSes and software applications.

Noto Sans CJK comprehensively covers Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in a unified font family and yet conveys the expected aesthetic preferences of each language. Noto Sans CJK is a sans serif typeface designed as an intermediate style between the modern and traditional. It is intended to be a multi-purpose digital font for user interface designs, digital content, reading on laptops, mobile devices, and electronic books. Noto Sans CJK is provided in seven weights: Thin, Light, DemiLight, Regular, Medium, Bold, and Black.

Fully supporting CJK requires tens of thousands of characters—these languages share the majority of ideographic characters, but there are also characters that are unique to only one language or to a subset of the languages. One of the primary design goals of Noto Sans CJK is that each script should retain its own distinctive look, which follows regional conventions, while remaining harmonious with the others.

Chinese ideographic characters are not only used by Simplified and Traditional Chinese, where they are called hanzi, but also by Japanese (kanji) and Korean (hanja). Although all originated from ancient Chinese forms, in each region and language they evolved independently. As a result, the same character can vary in shape across the different languages. For example, the image below shows variants of the same character (骨 - bone) designed for Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Look at how the inner top part and inner bottom part are different. Noto Sans CJK is designed to take these variations into account. In addition to ideographic characters, Noto Sans CJK also supports Japanese kana and Korean Hangeul—both contemporary and archaic.

Google and Adobe partnered to develop this free high-quality Pan-CJK typeface. Google will release it as Noto Sans CJK as part of Google's Noto font family. Adobe will release it as Source Han Sans as a part of Adobe's Source family. Adobe holds the copyright to the typeface design, and the fonts are released under the Apache License, version 2.0 which makes them freely available to all without restriction.

About this partnership: Google contributed significant input into project direction, helped to define requirements, provided in-country testing resources and expertise, and provided funding that made this project possible. Adobe brought strong design and technical prowess to the table, along with proven in-country type design experience, massive coordination, and automation. In addition, three leading East Asian type foundries were also brought in to design and draw a bulk of the glyphs—Changzhou SinoType Technology, Iwata Corporation, and Sandoll Communication—due to the sheer size of the project and their local expertise.

Building Noto Sans CJK font is a major step towards our mission to make the reading experience beautiful for all users on all devices. Noto Sans CJK is the newest member of the Noto font family, which aims to support all languages in the world. The entire Noto font family, including Noto Sans CJK, is free and open. Visit the Noto homepage to download Noto Sans CJK and other Noto fonts.

Xiangye Xiao is a Product Manager at Google Inc. where she works on fonts and text input.
Stuart Gill is the Tech Lead and Manager of Google’s Text and Font team.

Jungshik Shin is the Noto visionary and is a Software Engineer in Google’s Internationalization Engineering team working on Text and Fonts as well as on Chrome.

Posted by Louis Gray, Googler