Bilingual Lettering — (4) Consistency

3 min readAug 24, 2020

After sketching out a style with the approaches above, the next step is to make sure that all the visual parameters are consistent, which may include: color, concentration, balance, tension, visual center, contrast, details and overall impression lockup, etc.

1. Color

The “color” here refers to overall proportion of the positive and negative spaces rather than any actual color. As most Kanji characters are more complicated and denser than Latin script, Kanji would usually be made a little bit bigger and lighter. So the amount of “ink” will be the same. If the two languages were to be made with the same color, it will make Kanji look too heavy.

2. Expansion and contraction

Figure ⓘ

There is no such thing as x-height in Kanji , but “中宮” (Center Space) can be viewed as a similar concept. Latin alphabets are constructed vertically with three layers, one on top of another divided by x-height and baseline ⓘ, while every Kanji is constructed as a two-dimensional layout ⓙ. “Center Space” literally means the center box in a 3X3 metric, and the size of this center box will decide how modern the type looks. We can view “Center Space” as a x-height with two axes. Similar to x-height, a Kanji with contracted “Center Space” usually gives a more traditional impression, while expansive “Center Space” looks more modern. However, unlike x-height, the size of “Center Space” is totally perceptional, it can’t be measured with specific values.

Figure ⓙ

3. Tension and balance

When Kanji and Latin characters are set together, there is tension between their negative space. The tension between each character must be equal to the balance of the entire word.

4. Visual center

The visual center of the two languages should proportionally be of the same height. If we consider each Kanji as a two-dimensional image, we can find a visual center in each character, while the visual center of a Latin type is decided by the horizontal stroke design. Most of the horizontal strokes of Latin alphabets fall onto the Cap height, x-height and baseline, so the design of those two-story letters, such as A, B, E, F, G, H, P, R, S, X, Y and a, e, g, s, x, are key to deciding where the visual center falls.

5. Contrast

The contrast of thick and thin strokes should be consistent between both scripts.

6. Details

Figure ⓚ

When we pair Kanji and Latin characters, we can carry details from one to the other, such as the angle of cut, serif, terminal shapes and so on ⓚ.

7. Material and overall impression

In terms of the consistency of the material, in addition to imagining the type drawn with the same tool as mentioned above, we can also consider the idea of material as an abstract concept, such as “plumpness”. For instance, think about how much air is inside this type? The overall impression can be tough, warm, or full ⓛ.

8. Lockup or individual version

Two scripts can be locked-up together or used as two individual versions of lettering depending on the marketing strategy. When two scripts are locked-up, we need to adjust the relationship between them to maintain balance.

Figure ⓛ