August Nguyen

Kaisho — A Typeface

Kaisho is a typeface inspired by Japanese calligraphy. Kaisho is uniform and low contrast to support legibility, yet it’s organic and lively.



Inspired from typographer Helmut Schmid’s affection towards Japan’s distinctive beauty of naturalness and imperfection, as told in his book “japan japanisch,” Kaisho (literally means ‘regular script’) got its name after the most modern form of shodo — Japanese calligraphy. In contrast with Western calligraphy which aims for perfection and aesthetics, shodo is where seemingly spontaneous, accidental brush strokes on paper creates an irreversible image of a momentary memory.


The elements of this modular typeface replicate the strokes and drops of shodo, sketched out on grid paper with a cleaned-up look, yet retain the distinctive features. Many rounds of modification and re-calculation were done to limit the number of elements for the consistency.

The outcome is a hybrid between a serif and a sans serif typeface, between a body and a display typeface, and between a standard reading type and Japanese calligraphy. Such combinations make reading with Kaisho a familiar and refreshing experience at the same time.


Kaisho is low contrast and easy for reading at small size, with the small components emphasised. On the other hand, there is no excessive element, similar to most serif typefaces, making the type clean and standardised.


Kaisho utilises elements from calligraphy for every small detail. The uneven bars, spurred serifs, tear-drop terminals or ink-drop tittles increase the contrast, while pointy or angular corners were rounded out to soften the look of every letter.

Kaisho is currently available at two weights, and in Latin and Vietnamese scripts. Kaisho is under further development to support more weights and italics