Exploring Vietnamese orthography, folk art, and family traditions through type | 5 mins with Abbey Luong

5 days ago by

HUONG DISPLAY
by Abbey Luong has recently won an award at the Type Directors Club Young Ones Student Competition. Originally created as the final year project for Communication Design degree at AUT’s School of Art and Design, Huong Display explores Vietnamese orthography, folk art, as well as Abbey’s own family traditions.

Abbey can you tell us a little more about your project and share a bit of your design process behind this project?

This project was a way for me to embrace my Vietnamese culture through learning about Vietnamese orthography and typography. The typeface is a celebration of my culture and honours my heritage. 

The experimental typeface was inspired by the vibrant festivities that we would celebrate. 

I took inspiration from specific elements such as folk paintings, moon cakes, and festive costumes, which lead to the notable pillow forms. The playfulness carries throughout the typeface when forming words which visually reflect the tonal language. I also looked at local hand painted signage to inform the detail and function of creating the display typeface.

The process to reach that was hectic, but rewarding seeing my ideas all come together. As this was also my first time designing a typeface, I dove straight into learning the basics of letter forms to enable the legibility and function of the typeface while keeping it unique and interesting. The process also involved an extensive amount of research on how Viet typography functions. Especially regarding the design of character diacritics which are crucial to the functionality of each word. Luckily, I had my grandma who is a native speaker and could help me find the balance between designing a visually stylised and legible functioning set of tonal characters. The process also included a lot of back and forth between hand drawing letter concepts, digitising on glyphs, printing, adjusting and repeating. There was always something I could adjust or change, even now looking at it as an experimental typeface there’s still so many alternatives that I want to try out.

Hand crafting the type specimen was also a huge part of the process. Being able to contextualise the typeface in a tactile publication helped me share the story behind the Huong Display and bring representation to Vietnamese typography in Aotearoa’s design scene. The publication was printed externally which came with its fair share of difficulties and hand binded at the uni facilities. Designing the spreads really pulled the whole project together for me. I was able to show the intricate details of Huong Beo and Dep, while also sharing elements from my culture that inspired those choices. The specimen was also a way to share the knowledge that I had acquired about Vietnamese orthography and bring representation to Vietnamese type design. And finally the last component which encapsulated the whole project was the illustrated poster jacket sleeve for the publication. Illustrating the traditional folk painting in my own style was initially the start of my research project and being able to include it as the final process of my project was like the ribbon on top of the whole project. 

This project came with a lot of sweat and tears, but looking at it on the otherside, it was definitely all with it. Designing Huong Display only piqued my passion for type design and an even greater appreciation for every single typeface I come across now after experiencing how much goes into designing one myself. 

What ( if any ) challenges came up for you during the process of creating Huong Display and what learnings were you able to take away from them

I think the hardest challenge of this project was viewing it as a way for me to validate my Vietnamese-ness. As an ethnic Vietnamese-Chinese, I always felt disconnected from that part of my identity being born and raised in Auckland, which made me feel like I was tackling a huge topic that I was well under-qualified to do. However, as the project went deeper, my research turned into a real passion to learn about Vietnamese orthography and typography. Sequentially, seeing how poorly designed Vietnamese type was in the digital type scene compelled me to continue with this project and represent the intricacies of Vietnamese typography. I definitely am no expert, but I think through this project it can spark conversation and knowledge of this beautiful language.

Where can people see more of the project and connect with you?

It’s currently part of the TDC70 Exhibition!  So will soon make it’s way to Aotearoa with Objectspace. But for now you can see more of my work and connect with me on instagram @lettering.ab 🙂


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