[Story]About Lava.

Typography Journal "Letter Seed" Issue 23 Contribution 

*This article was published with minor term modifications from a contribution to issue 23 of  Letter Seed .

The development of Noto Sans by Google and Adobe has ushered in a significant movement in multilingual font development. Renowned global companies like Samsung with Samsung One and IBM with IBM Plex began announcing their multilingual fonts. Domestic companies, such as AmorePacific with the development of Arita Black, have also embarked on creating multilingual fonts as needed. Additionally, Sandoll has been actively engaging with the global market by consistently hosting foreign font companies on its font platform, Sandoll Cloud, and collaborating with the Dutch font company Typotheque to develop multilingual font families like sandoll Greta Sans, sandoll Lava, and sandoll November. Independent designers are also agilely responding to the development of multilingual fonts, planning multilingual font families like Ryu Yang-hee's Willow, or localizing Latin fonts into Hangul, as seen with Designer Ham Min-ju's Blazeface and Yoon Min-goo's Favorit Hangul. Unifying different languages into a single voice is the essence of multilingual font development.

 Misla Libsekal advises designers that "the participation of native speakers is essential in addressing issues related to readability and grammar among others." He realized that although designers might bring a new perspective to font design without literacy in the language, judging purely on aesthetics can lead to misunderstandings.

*Lubben Patter, "Politics of Design" (Goth, 2022), p. 32. 

The context arising from various national scripts can never be understood better than by the native speakers themselves. This is why native speakers are directly involved or review the multilingual font projects. This fundamental premise guides us as we examine how the Latin font design context was continued and how the unique context of Hangul was followed in the process of localizing Lava.

Reading about Lava from Typotheque, it was developed for the Dutch design magazine "Works that Work."* It's a modern serif font family designed to be readable in long texts set at 8-12 points. With readability in mind for body text, the apertures and counters were designed to be large, the vertical proportions generous, and spacing and kerning consistently set. Looking closely at the form details of Lava, the lowercase serif design incorporates significant expression seen in handwriting, distinct from typical serifs. The transition from the stem to the serif is smooth, but the ends of the serifs are cut straight, providing a counterbalance to an otherwise overly soft appearance. The stroke design, embodying both softness and sharpness, is deliberately crafted to convey Lava's unique impression. This detail becomes more pronounced in thicker weights, but the family offers versatile options for both text and headings, carefully maintaining a delicate and harmonious balance in every aspect.

*Typotheque, 「About Lava」,(link)

Acknowledging the general characteristics of Lava Latin and looking at Lava Hangul, one can see the designer's efforts to follow the same design principles. The large apertures and counters designed for readability in Latin correspond to the large internal spaces of Hangul characters, enhancing legibility even at small sizes and providing a modern look. The consistent design of internal spaces adds a refined impression. 

Examining the stroke contours more closely, efforts to follow the context of brush writing can be seen in the downward strokes of ㅂ and the tops of ㅈ and ㅎ. 

Despite the different contexts derived from using a pen and brush, the strokes were matched to Lava Latin by treating the serifs' ends in a straight line. The relatively straight lines of ㄹ and ㅁ suggest an effort to minimize any old-fashioned impressions while adhering to the writing context. 

The column shapes start softly but proceed straight down, and the bows start with sharp tips but transition into flexible curves, embodying Lava’s identity of coexisting softness and sharpness.

In this way, Lava Hangul attempts to follow Lava Latin's identity in strokes and spaces. Yet, what's more interesting is the uniqueness of Hangul itself.

Designing sandoll Lava, particular attention was paid to evenly distributing the white space between letters. Despite changes in weight, a consistent impression was maintained, and spaces were adjusted based on the most commonly used sizes for each weight. For this reason, the Light weight for body text in Hangul has uniform letter widths, but other weights vary slightly.

sandollcloud, sandoll Lava (

Reading the introduction to sandoll Lava, the designer chose Light instead of Regular for body text thickness. While Regular is typically used for body text, the actual thickness can vary across characters. This suggests that the preferred body text thickness in Korea might be thinner than in Latin script countries, possibly due to Hangul having more physical strokes compared to Latin.

Comparing the thickness of sandoll Greta Sans Regular and sandoll Gothic Neo1, Noto Sans KR Regular, it's evident that sandoll Greta Sans Regular is definitively thicker. Similarly, sandoll Lava Regular appears significantly thicker compared to sandoll Myeongjo Neo1, Noto Serif KR Regular. This could be seen as an inevitable aspect of collaboration projects adhering to the original thickness. However, Designer Park Soo-hyun developed Lava Light as the master, refining it to correspond to the thickness used for body text in Korea.

The modification of some punctuation marks is another unique aspect of Lava Hangul. The sandoll Lava designers created key punctuation marks suitable for Hangul and included the original Latin punctuation as an OpenType feature, aligning them not with the Latin Cap Height but with the size and space of Hangul. Adjusting the size, position, and even changing the shape to suit Hangul represents a novel approach not seen in other multilingual fonts.


sandoll Lava is an intriguing project that follows the genetic characteristics of the original Lava while considering the universal usage environment in Korea and adhering to the unique context of Hangul. The tense balance between Hangul and Latin, the designer's effort not to lean too much to one side, is palpable. Such multilingual collaboration projects breathe new life into Hangul design, where the uniqueness of Hangul and foreign scripts coexist at both similar and different points. Designers face deep contemplation over what to adopt and what to discard, with no definitive answer, merely a point on a slider. 

Regrettably, the world today seems to be moving in the opposite direction of the concept of globalization we learned about in our youth. The notion of deglobalization is emerging for various reasons, including COVID-19 and wars, making national barriers feel more palpable. In such a world, as scripts form the foundation and culture of a country, the cultural significance of multilingualism remains crucial. While it may be challenging to overcome the distancing of the world through culture alone, maintaining the connection between domestic and foreign scripts might be the role of font designers living in this era.