By Fran Johnson
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The joy of Google Noto

When Barnardo's approached us to translate a series of documents we knew we needed to prepare well. With a task so big, you can't design for one language - English - and hope the formatting will work across the board. Being a branding agency, we also had another bugbear - consistency. The documents needed to work well as a set rather than having a different tone for each writing system. So, you can imagine our excitement (we are allowed to get nerdy about such things!) when we discovered the typeface, Noto. 

Noto typeface with multiple languages

So, what is Noto?

Noto is a Google typeface created by Monotype that covers more than 1,000 languages and more than 150 writing systems. A feat of design that has taken years of painstaking research and dedication. 

The team at Monotype worked with designers and linguists from around the world to understand each language and perfect each letterform. The research phase sounded extraordinary, and we are particularly taken with this quote from Noto project manager, Xiangye Xiao:

Xiangye Xiao

From the vertically stacked script of Tibetan to the 4th century alphabet of Ogham the Monotype team have ensured the calligraphy of so many scripts will live on in the digital age. 

download Noto for free

The name, Noto

The original brief was ‘no more tofu’. Tofu is the name given to those thin rectangles that appear everytime a character is available within a particular font. With more than 77,000 characters, we are pretty sure they’ve nailed the brief!

Tofu squares when characters aren't available

Monotype created a video that documents the process, which we think is worth a watch:


When we came to use the font on our projects with Barnardo’s we were impressed by the balance between consistency across the font family whilst also (we are assuming) retaining the cultural authenticity of the typefaces. We hope that the young people arriving into the country for the first time will benefit from reading the information in their own language. With picture cards, information about the authorities, and what to expect on the first days of being in the UK all in their mother tongue.

To read more about our project with Barnardo’s and the National Counter Trafficking Service take a look at the case study within our portfolio

Barnardo's illustration of people
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