The Japanese language, across its three writing systems, contains thousands of individual glyphs that can be composed in both a horizontal and vertical setting, which in the modern day, has evolved into a grid-like structure that facilitates this multi-directional orthography. This restriction, through repetition and convenience, lends itself to a design space that is as predictable as it is constraining, visually creating a grid-like form in running-text instances.
Within Latin typography, this is usually only found when designing Monospace typefaces (see Space Mono). This connection between Western and Asian typography, in the context of a Monospace (whereby every character has the same advance width), is a poignant moment where the two scripts occasionally struggle with complexity.
⁕ The Proportional family, in 3 weights, with accompanying Italics.
Upon researching the Japanese vernacular, it became apparent that [Japan’s] most diverse and visually exuberant landscape is actually — typographically [Latin] speaking — quite sparse. Of course, there are many visual styles and cues, but when it comes to their Latin equivalents, translations and pairings, they fall back to System defaults, and crudely modified abstractions of type that juxtapose their Kanji siblings.
⁕ Found ephemera from Tokyo, Japan (circa 2008).
It was these initial references, often neglected, overlooked and ignored, that really stood out. These types, often bundled within larger CJK sets, were our key reference points. MS Gothic (1992, Microsoft Corporation), a typeface that has been bundled, and subsequently used extensively, within Windows systems as far back as Windows 3.1¹, has been the go-to for an off-the-shelf Japanese-ready font, while the Latin accompanying it lacked a certain sense of refinement, but was endowed with the charm and something not-quite-right, yet not-quite-wrong.