HK Magazine Archive

Kit Man Wants to Make a Font for Cantonese Words

The designer is on a mission to preserve what’s uniquely Hong Kong by creating a font set of 6,000 Traditional Chinese characters.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2016, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:13pm

Designer Kit Man want to create Kick Ass Type, a font set of 6,000 Traditional Chinese characters incorporating Cantonese words. He’s trying to crowdfund $650,000 for the project, which he describes as a creative response to social issues.

How did you get into calligraphy? During Occupy Central in 2014, my friend needed help with making a banner for the movement, so I wrote “I want genuine universal suffrage” in an irregular Chinese calligraphy style. I hated doing Chinese calligraphy at school because I had really bad handwriting, but I enjoyed reading comic books and was inspired by a comic book artist who drew using a calligraphy brush. I was also inspired by the writing on Japanese liquor bottles. Since Occupy, I’ve been writing for advertisements and exhibitions. The next step is to create a font that is made in Hong Kong, for Hong Kong.

How are you going to do it? The plan is to spend around 15 hours on writing and scanning 10 characters every day and complete the whole set in two years. I won’t be making a Simplified Chinese version of the font because it does not have the same depth as Traditional Chinese: Many simplified characters carry multiple definitions and uses, which could be disastrous for Chinese language learners. Kick Ass Type is partly a response to the possible introduction of Simplfied Chinese in the primary school curriculum. It will include a lot of Cantonese-exclusive characters that you may not find in other fonts. My goal is to generate $650,000 for the project, which means I’ll get less than $100 per hour, but it’ll be worth it because the project will be good for the continuity of my craft, Cantonese, and Traditional Chinese.

Read more: Made in Hong Kong: The People Keeping the Label Alive

Have you always been an artist? I actually graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in biotechnology. I wanted to become a comic book artist but my family insisted that I did something “proper” at uni so I could earn a living. I came across the opportunity to enrol in a multimedia diploma course in Canada after HKU. I decided to give it a shot and later worked as a programmer before making interactive art at an advertising company until the financial crisis in 2008. For two months, the company had no clients so I just sat there doing nothing. I was bored, so I resigned and began my freelance career.

What’s it like being a creator here? Working full-time was very comfortable, but I didn’t progress. I’d rather work on my own, even if it means spending a lot of time on trial and error. I’ve got many skills but I lack the wisdom to turn creativity into money. I used to think that being focused would help me find a way out, but it didn’t. Perhaps the better tool now would be compromise: As a creative person, I shouldn’t have to compromise at all, but if it puts food on the table and supports my mom, so be it. Sometimes, I just want to give up and go back to working full-time because either way, I’m never going to earn enough to buy a flat. 

How does Kick Ass Type address social issues in Hong Kong? Hongkongers are losing their virtues. They don’t realize that when they buy something from supermarkets run by large corporations, they’re voting against owners of smaller stalls. They’ve forgotten about what it means to be kind to their neighbors. I used to spend so much time illustrating social issues that I neglect my livelihood. I’m still trying to find a way to highlight social issues while being able to take care of myself, so creating Kick Ass Type will be my way of giving back. It’s the least I could do, when young people who haven’t even graduated have made it their mission to fix problems which could have been fixed by generations before.