Arvana fonts specimen

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Jaimey Shapey on December 22, 2020

Arvana, an elegant and kinetic multiscript typeface developed by Noheul Lee, uses western calligraphic features with Hangul brush traits to create dynamic and refined letterforms.

The difficulty in creating a Hangul–Latin multiscript design lies in the disparities between the tools of their original letterform constructions. While Latin type design descends from the broad-nib pen, Hangul descends from a pointed brush. The distinctive Myeongjo style (often used as the Hangul equivalent of a serif), creates serif-like shapes through the shifting application of pressure. Hangul characters also have a more complex stroke order.

Arvana meets these challenges by creating rhythm and fusing these different calligraphic models in an elegant, kinetic, and energetic manner. The sense of motion and speed is present in both scripts, without compromising tidiness or beauty. The stroke shapes are sharp with blunted or pointed ends (visible in the c, t, r) — a trait that is not characteristic of most Myeongjo fonts, which tend to be soft and round. Arvana uses this razored edge to create a relationship between Latin and Hangul letters. For example, if you look at the branching of the lowercase n, and compare it to (lee-um), you’ll see the same high-contrast stroke joint in both graphemes.

There is a sense of liveliness in the swooping motion of Arvana’s strokes, such as in the syllable block (san). The final consonant position of begins with a blunt entry stroke, quickly dips down and quickly swoops back up, generating momentum and providing a sense of airiness within the glyph.

Arvana is also notable for its sheer character volume. A conventional Latin character set contains anywhere from 256 to seven hundred individual characters. Because Hangul is structured in syllable blocks that combine vowels and consonants, Hangul fonts require as many as eleven thousand individual characters. Certain consonants are vertical; others are horizontal. When these letters combine in consonant + vowel, consonant + vowel + consonant, and rarely consonant + vowel + consonant + consonant (for example, , or dalg) blocks, the construction model changes according to the characters in the grapheme.

While we can admire Arvana for its beautiful and innovative composition, I am most compelled by its multiplicity and technical intricacy.

Jaimey JeongMi Shapey is a type designer who lives and works in Los Angeles and New York. She graduated from CalArts with a BFA in Graphic Design and from the Type@Cooper program in 2020.

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