Just say no — to tofu

Sorry to any bean curd enthusiasts out there, but this has nothing to do with coagulating soy milk but is about these little boxes 𛲢𛲡𛲠 and Google’s plan to get rid of them.

Google Noto Fonts
When text is rendered by a computer, sometimes characters are displayed as “tofu”. They are little boxes to indicate your device doesn’t have a font to display the text. Google has been developing a font family called Noto, which aims to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel. Noto is Google’s answer to tofu. The name noto is to convey the idea that Google’s goal is to see “no more tofu”.

I had picked the Noto Sans typeface for this blog without realising any of this — I just thought it looked quite elegant.

Preserving endangered languages with Noto fontsGoogle Keyword
From billions of readers to very small language communities, the freely available, open source Noto font family from Google Fonts supports literacy for hundreds of languages. The Cherokee Nation, with an estimated 20,000 speakers, uses Noto on phones for texting, email and teaching their language in the USA. Noto is used every day for Tibetan, millions of African users, and hundreds of languages of Asia. The government of British Columbia in Canada, with a population of 5 million people, wanted to cover all their languages, including indigenous ones, in a single font and merged Noto Sans + Noto Sans Canadian Aboriginal into a single font, BC Sans font.

Google and Monotype launch Noto, an open-source typeface family for all the world’s languagesIt’s Nice That
Many of the scripts required significant research for Monotype, in order to apply the rules and traditions of the individual languages to the designs of their fonts. For example for the Tibetan face, Monotype did in-depth research into a vast library of writings and then enlisted the help of Buddhist monks to critique the font and make adjustments to the design.

“There are some characters you can only see on stones,” says Xiangye Xiao, product manager at Google. “If you don’t move them to the web, over time those stones will become sand and we’ll never be able to recover those drawings or that writing.”

Well, if it’s good enough for IKEA, it’s good enough for me.

Author: Terry Madeley

Works with student data and enjoys reading about art, data, education and technology.

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