How many design competitions today are free to enter? How many offer real prizes? The Morisawa Type Design Competition is not a fundraiser. It isn’t a publicity stunt. It isn’t a portfolio piece. It’s a way for Morisawa to find the best new typefaces.
The competition is one of a kind. Entrants can submit as many typefaces as they like, (with no entry fee), and—wait for it—the two gold prize winners (one for Kanji and one for Latin type) each receive JPY 1 million, about $9,380 USD. The Silver, Bronze, and Honorable mention winners don’t leave empty-handed either, taking home JPY 500,000, 300,000, and 50,000, respectively.
The first version of the competition, “The Morisawa Awards International Typeface Design Competition,” took place seven times: Every three years from 1984 until 2002. The jury consistently included some of the time’s foremost designers, with Ikko Tanaka, Adrian Frutiger, and Matthew Carter among them.
After a ten-year hiatus, Morisawa brought back the competition with a simpler name, new categories, and the same unwavering focus on excellent type design. The company added two more categories: The themed Akashi Award and the publicly selected People’s Choice Award.
Over a three-month-long submission period, Morisawa collected 813 entry works (258 in the Kanji category and 555 in the Latin category), with applicants submitting from 53 countries. It marked the largest and most competitive entry pool in the competition’s history.
One of the appeals of entering The Morisawa Type Design Competition, aside from the cash prizes, is having your work viewed and critiqued by an astute panel of judges. For two days last May, the judges did just this, poring over hundreds of typefaces, each printed neatly in black on a single A3 sheet of paper.
The judges of the Kanji category included the president of design and printing company GRAPH, Issay Kitagawa, the co-founder of the Japanese type foundry JIYUKOBO, Osamu Torinoumi, prominent Adobe type designer Ryoko Nishizuka, and the founder of Hiromura Masaaki Design Office, Masaaki Hiromura.
The judges of the Latin category included the co-founder of online shop type.today, Ilya Ruderman, author and professor at HBKsaar, Indra Kupferschmid, the founder of type foundry Occupant Fonts, Cyrus Highsmith, and the founder of type foundry Type-Ø-Tones, Laura Meseguer. With Matthew Carter as Emeritus jury member.
The typefaces selected by this celebrated group of type people to win Morisawa’s prizes came from nearly every corner of the Earth: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Switzerland, France, Russia, Brazil, Portugal, Ukraine. . . and the United States. And their styles include everything from calligraphic to slab-serif, from rounded to reverse contrast. It’s a diverse collection, and while consumers cannot purchase licenses to them yet, Morisawa has a history of working with its competition winners to finish and distribute their fonts.
Morisawa searched for and found the world’s best new typefaces.
The designer known as Yokokaku was born in Nagano Prefecture and graduated from Tama Art University before joining JIYUKOBO Ltd. in 1994. After establishing the design studio Yokokaku in 2009, he released the komo no ji, douro no ji, and dot no ji series. Yokokaku was awarded an honorable mention in the 2016 Morisawa Type Design Competition.
Noheul Lee, South Korea
Passionate about type design, Noheul Lee graduated from the Type and Media program at the KABK, The Hague in 2018. While Lee currently works as a multi-script type and graphic designer, in 2020, she will become a partner at lo-ol type foundry, a Swiss studio. She won the sixth Bang Il Young Cultural Foundation Fund Competition for Hangul typeface in Korea.
Daisuke Fukushi, Japan
Daisuke Fukushi was born in Aomori Prefecture in 1979. He went on to work at several design offices before going independent earlier this year. While his primary focus is on editorial design, Fukushi has a strong interest in type design and completed his studies at Robundo Publishing’s private typography school in Shinjuku (28th graduating class) in 2016.
Ondřej Báchor, Czech Republic
Ondřej Báchor is a Czech graphic and type designer who works in various fields, from culture to commerce. With a strong focus on typography, Báchor’s work aims to combine various techniques and styles. Since graduating, he has run his own studio in Lausanne, Switzerland and has worked as a teaching assistant for the Master in Type Design at ECAL.
Tien-Min Liao, Taiwan
Tien-Min Liao is a New York-based designer born and raised in Taipei. Since finishing The Cooper Union’s extended type design program in 2015, Liao has designed custom typefaces and various logotypes for consumer brands and global organizations. She was also named one of the Ascenders 2018 by the Type Directors Club.
Théo Guillard, France
Théo Guillard is a French typeface designer based in Barcelona. Born in 1988 in Lille, he studied graphic and type design at AxeSud in Toulouse, France. After creating calligraphy for communication agencies, he specialized in retail and custom typefaces for foundries. Through that endeavor, he won a Type Directors Club award with Black[Foundry] for Read Condensed Greek. Now he currently divides his time between researching imaginary writing systems, retail type design, and commissioned works.