Although I don’t design typefaces for my native script professionally, I can’t simply ignore it. And as primarily a Latin type designer, I always contemplate how a Latin companion to a Japanese typeface should look. Janko FY might not be among the typefaces that received the most praise last year, but it is one of the best examples I was seeking, and was most relevant and impressive to me.
CJK calligraphy uses a pointed brush. It is a common mistake to treat its tip shape as a circle whose radius increases as it gets pressed deeper into the paper, as exemplified by “brush” tools in numerous drawing applications. In fact, the object that comes closest to doing that is a rubber ball with ink. The actual pointed brush is more like a very flexible flat nib at a mirrored angle from that of traditional Latin calligraphy.
Pointed brush exists in modern Latin calligraphy, too, but because of its mirrored angle, the stem angle is often slanted in order to preserve the normal Latin contrast axis, and often used to write script styles. And if you want to design a Latin counterpart to a Japanese typeface (especially a calligraphic one) with the same brush, there is no good model because of its nib angle.
And this is where Janko FY comes in. It is a moderately slanted italic typeface with a reverse-stroke axis that looks totally natural. It’s brush-shaped only where it needs to be, and it does not rigidly toe that line. It is a beautiful marriage of brush calligraphy and type design, an unintentional Jeanne d’Arc of Japanese type design, in my opinion (a slightly more upright stem angle may be preferred for that purpose, though). As for application in the Latin community, it is suitable for Asian restaurant shopfront signs and food packaging where Frutiger’s Ondine would be the typical choice. I hope it will eventually have a Greek alphabet, since the axis is perfect for it, and a bold weight for display use.
Toshi Omagari studied typeface design at Musashino Art University in Tokyo and the University of Reading. He specializes in various scripts including Greek, Cyrillic, Tibetan, Mongolian and Python, and works at Monotype in London.