Introduction

This book will help type designers understand Vietnamese’s unique typographic features so they can design their typefaces to support the Vietnamese language. It will also guide web and graphic designers in using correct Vietnamese typography in a project.

Unlike most Asian character-based writing systems, modern Vietnamese is written in the Latin alphabet. Its writing system uses diacritics to specify phonetic tones of their spoken counterpart. These special typographic features play a crucial role in legibility and readability.

For good legibility, the design of the diacritics is as important as the letters. If the marks are too small, readers will have a difficult time distinguishing words. If the marks are too large, the flow of text can be interfered. In the worst case, Vietnamese is typeset without diacritical marks. When the marks are missing, readers have to slow down or stop to guess at words, which could distort, or obscure entirely, the original meaning of the text.

For optimal readability, support for proper Vietnamese fonts is vital. When a typeface does not include Vietnamese diacritics and characters, web browsers and digital tools—including InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop—will substitute default fonts to display missing characters. Imagine a single word containing both Goudy and Georgia or Futura and Arial—the result is aesthetically disjointed and disrupts the flow of reading.

Although Vietnamese is based on Latin characters, support for Vietnamese fonts is limited. Even with the emergence of web font services like Adobe Typekit and Google Fonts, which offer thousands of typefaces, only a handful of these fonts have subsets for Vietnamese. Today many online publications written in Vietnamese use default system fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman, or fonts without proper subsets for Vietnamese characters.

The goal of this book is to expand and enrich the quality of Vietnamese typography. It is aimed at providing insights into the subtle details and nuances of the Vietnamese writing system that can be used for reference and transferred into practice.