Fonta by Kayac design studio creates a handwritten collaborative web font

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Fonta is a website that encourages anyone to digitally write one of the 6941 characters on the site. On the landing page are numerous tiles with characters on them. Some tiles have faint grey outlines as guides for characters yet to be written, others have been written over by different users. Fonta’s driving vision is that a complete publicly generated font will eventually be created with the accumulated handwritten characters from different users. The font can be installed on your personal computer and used as a web font, but as of now there are only 1486 of the possible characters written. Also, as the site is in Japanese created by the design studio Kayac, the majority of the characters are of the Japanese alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana) and kanji, adopted Chinese characters. The English alphabet, numbers and some glyphs are also included.

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I like how Fonta isn’t a website or service that seeks to fill some hole in your life you didn’t know you had. In fact, as far as I can tell, Fonta is a Kayac side project—created simply because it’s nice to have more non-commercial, intriguing things on the web. To me, Fonta is a social experiment and a collaborative creative opportunity. What makes Fonta successful is the user-generated content, something completely out of the creators’ control when launched. It turns out that Fonta’s users are quite imaginative and thoughtful, which makes the characters currently visible a compelling scroll through.

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Another aspect of Fonta that makes it work so well is that Japanese has such a large variety of complex characters. Contemporary Japanese and Chinese characters evolved from pictographs and occasionally still resemble their definition. My favorite characters are the ones where what’s been drawn indicates the meaning of the word. Fonta may be particularly fun for people to whom Japanese is a foreign language because some of the characters’ definitions can be guessed. (The words above both mean knife. The word in the image below means cold; the user went for a seasonal feeling.)

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The user experience is fairly well thought out and easy to understand without textual comprehension. Click on a tile with a grey outlined character, login with Facebook, and write the character however you please. The login functionality limits each person to writing one character only, so pick your tile wisely. When you’ve submitted your drawing, it appears in the top left tile on the homepage and does a little jig to congratulate you.

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I’d like to see more of the Fonta characters filled in, as the English alphabet isn’t complete yet. A solely English version of Fonta could be interesting. I imagine that upon the completion of the standard alphanumeric set, another blank set is made available so that each letter has a few iterations created by different people. Handwritten fonts are a dime a dozen on the internet, but Fonta seems to be the first aiming to be created by thousands of people.

Charis Poon

December 4, 2013 / By

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