Morisawa Lutes


Arabic and Latin original designs for Japanese type family

Three lines of text in Arabic, Japanese, and Latin scripts, set in the typeface Morisawa Lutes

Building on our previous successful collaborations, Morisawa turned again to Rosetta for the expansion of its comprehensive Reimin type family. The foundry sought our help with the addition of new original Arabic, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, and Latin glyph complements, which are now branded as the Lutes UD family. The new additions were supposed to convey the classical-yet-pragmatic, utilitarian-yet-refined voice across the family, and they should work well with Clarimo, the low contrast type we worked on before. It was a brief for be a multi-purpose workhorse design, covering some of the world’s most widely used writing systems.

To meet the challenge, Rosetta assembled a small group of designers under my direction. As the design lead I contributed the Arabic and Latin scripts, the latter with help from Anna Štepanovská (née Giedryś). Octavio Pardo was commissioned for the Cyrillic, with expert advice from Maria Doreuli; Florian Runge designed the Devanagari with consultation from Fiona Ross; and Irene Vlachou designed the Greek complement for this truly multiscriptual project.

In our process, we first evaluated the key characteristics of the Japanese design and identified how best to convey them in other writing systems. Rather than literally borrowing shapes, we defined our internal design brief with adjectives that were open to interpretation in the respective script. A feature that may convey ‘seriousness’ does not necessarily have the same connotation in another cultural context, but may best be expressed with a formal trait of its own. We therefore described the design with characteristics such as ‘classical’, ‘practical’, ‘approachable’, and then sought to find corresponding formal solutions for every script.

Lutes UD is a part of Morisawa’s UD (Universal Design) range. Typefaces with the label UD are designed to work well in a variety of circumstances, from print to screen, in text and large sizes. They are conceived as multifunctional tools in the service of readability and user-centric design. In Japanese typefaces from the UD collection, Morisawa pays particular attention to typographic contrast and the gradation of thin strokes throughout the family’s weight range. In order to meet this design characteristic, we worked with a dedicated multi-axis variable font, fine-tuning colour and contrast of the newly added scripts.

The resulting families Lutes UD PE, Lutes UD Arabic, and Lutes UD Devanagari offer dramatically expanded language support, including Arabic, Greek, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Persian, Russian, Urdu, and Vietnamese. In the Cyrillic, Greek, and Latin scripts, matching italics round off the typographic palette. In conjunction with Morisawa’s original Japanese design, a stylistically consistent and polyphonic type system is now on offer to facilitate multilingual and cross-cultural communication.