With the upcoming release of Ninjago The Movie I thought I spend a little time talking about the font and symbols used in the current Ninjago sets.
It’s not Japanese!
For quite some time I thought that the symbols being used in the Ninjago minifigures are special Japanese font that TLG designed for Ninjago. However, I did some digging back in 2015 and I learned that this was actually a font that was made to appear like Japanese writing. In other terms, it is faux Japanese font. Faux… as in fake.
Based on the font copyright information this font has been published by Adobe Font Foundry since 1998 but according to the designer profile that I found, this font has been around since 1996.
Fun fact: this font won an award in an international font competition. These are the text found in the winners’ archive:
With my fascination of Chinese action films set the stage for the creation of this new typeface. I wanted to create a typeface that looked like it was Chinese, particularly when first viewed. I know that there are Oriental fonts already, like the ones used in some Chinese restaurants. They are letters drawn in a Chinese calligraphic manner but they do not look like Chinese writing to me. While some may dismiss them as purely novelty typeface, I do not. Specialized maybe. I consider it a bridge between Chinese calligraphy and roman letters. I cannot read or write in Chinese or Japanese but with this typeface, I feel that I can.
This is a typeface created at the cross section of time and place mixed with words and letter - a place where all these different elements collide and then unite. It is a kind of typeface where simply looking at it inspire all kinds of imagination. Ranks extremely high in originality and uniqueness. The degree of readability is convincing in its own way. Morisawa Award 1996 (page 39)
Below is the basic character mapping of Fusaka font:
The Ninjago team did not use the fusaka font symbols until the Elemental (Kimono) suits were introduced in 2013. After that they became more common in graphic arts on stickers from 2015 onwards.
The Fusaka font became more prominent when it was printed on the headwrap of Spellbound suit (Tournament of Elements).
I like the idea of having a faux-Chinese/Japanese script to make up the Ninjago language because it gives this LEGO theme more mystery and oriental feel. If the designers just based the characters from Kanji, Hanzi, Hangul or any other foreign writing system then it would appear that Ninjago is within the same universe as ours. Using the Fusaka font makes the Ninjago world foreign and unknown.
In my next post, I will break down the new script that Ninjago design team use in the new LEGO Ninjago movie. They are not using the Fusaka font in the movie but but creative team used a new set of symbols that resemble the Japanese Hiragana/Katakana writing system.
Let me know in the comments below what do you think about these Ninjago scripts.