Back story: Source Han Serif is a new open source typeface (the largest ever!) that harmonizes the look of the characters across Chinese, Japanese, and Korean alphabets, and gives designers a way to mix them gracefully. Nearly a quarter of the world’s population (around 1.5 billion people) use one or more of these three languages in their written communications. “It was always our intent to release a serif complement to Source Han Sans when we introduced it in 2014,” says Dan Rhatigan, senior type Manager at Adobe.
“Designing any typeface is a time-intensive, meticulous process; creating one that works across so many languages is an even more challenging feat.”
Source Han Serif is also available via Google, which partnered with Adobe to bring the project to life under the name Noto Serif CJK. It’s part of Google’s ambitious Noto font project meant to provide visually unified typefaces for everyone worldwide; so far they’re up to 800 separate languages (!!!).
Why’s it called Source Han Serif? The logograms used to write Standard Chinese characters are called hànzì, and in English they’re known as Han, giving this typeface a name that pairs it with its predecessor, Source Han Sans.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Source Han Serif features 65,535 glyphs (the Open Type limit) and seven weights, supporting Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The range of weight options adds a welcome degree of typographic sophistication along with the typeface’s flexibility across languages, and the characters feel natural as a group even as they maintain their distinct language’s identity.
What should I use it for? Any design project calling for a mix of East Asian languages, with possibly some Latin, Greek or Cyrillic thrown in for good measure (Source Han Serif supports these alphabets, too) just got a whole lot easier. The characters in every weight and all three languages are visually compatible across the board for both print and screen design work.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Since Google Noto aims for a uniform look in terms of stroke weight, contrast, baseline alignment, and other key typographic factors, Source Han Serif looks good in combination with any other Noto face. We haven’t done the math, but this seems like an appropriate place to say: the possibilities are endless—go to town.