Typeface Design


Cliff is a inscriptional typeface inspired by Chinese calligraphy. An experiment based on some of my prvevious explorations between Latin and Chinese characters, it is based on the Wei regular script calligraphy from around 5th century CE, especially the Northern Wei Empire. The script is characterized by robust form, heavy weight, rather wide proportions, and sharp corners and points. Most existing examples of this script are inscriptions on stelae, tombstones, statues, and cliffs.

The goal was to design a legible Latin typeface, with a touch of Chinese calligraphy, without turning it into an idiosyncratic novelty font. Both Chinese calligraphy and Roman inscriptional typefaces were studied and instead of directly using strokes from Chinese characters, the latin letters are reimagined to be written with a Chinese pointed brush, combined with characteristics of the script, such as the overall texture and the contrast between sharp points and curves.

The Wei regular script also shares a similar backstory to the Roman capitals of the Trajan’s Column, which helps bridge the two languages together in a certain way. There have been discussions on whether the sharp points of the characters were written with a brush or carved by the stoneworker. Currently most believe they were written by the calligrapher with a brush, although some say that it might have been a technique that has been lost.

The typeface is still a work in progress.

typographyMark Zhudesign