Japan's "noramoji," or stray text, has a special significance for a small group of fontmakers.

Most of our U.S. readers are probably familiar with designers' escalating love affair with vintage hand-painted signs. It's now gotten to the point where the hand-painted look has become practically endemic to parts of Williamsburg. Do other countries love their handmade typefaces just as much? Apparently, Japan does.

Rintaro Shimohama, Naoki Nishimura, and Shinya Wakaoka became fascinated with the fonts seen on the storefronts of nine different local small businesses, including a local barber, an old florist, an electronics store dating back to the era right after World War II, and a time-worn toy store. They decided to turn them into donationware fonts, naming the project “Noramoji” (“stray” + “text”). These fonts are naïve but evocative, and many of them created by the shop owners, who had no graphic design experience but a strong desire to establish a unique look. In making the choice to fontify and therefore preserve them them, the creators wrote evocative copy, the elegance of which unfortunately doesn't come through on Google Translate. “The angular portion and continuous round parts dance in the retina to become a rhythm,” reads one possible interpretation of the copy about the Shimizudenki font.

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