KACHI-BUWA • About

KACHI-BUWA IS A VARIABLE KATAKANA TYPEFACE DESIGNED BY EMI TAKAHASHI. IT DISPLAYS AND PERFORMS JAPANESE ONOMATOPOEIC EXPRESSIONS THROUGH FORMAL SYNESTHETIC ASSOCIATIONS. IT CAPTURES THE KIKIEST AND BOUBAEST OF JAPANESE ONOMATOPOEIA.

Onomatopoeic expressions are elements of speech and writing which convey meaning through phonetic imitation. The typeface“KACHI-BUWA”bridges sound, meaning and representation as well as culture by bringing together three considerations: the first is the nature of the expressions, which binds sound with meaning. The second is a cognitive mechanism called the “Kiki-Bouba” effect. This effect is a sound-shape mapping exercise that demonstrates that sound carries semantic content, namely representation. Finally, the third consideration is cultural. The typeface brings to light the Japanese context in these expressions. Katakana is one of three scripts in the Japanese writing system and is largely used for loanwords from foreign languages, onomatopoeic rendition and emphasis (functioning similarly to the use of bold and italics in Roman writing systems). The typeface was therefore only designed in a Katakana script. The visual character of this font also draws from the traditional textual-visual hybrid quality of onomatopoeic expressions highly present in Japanese comic books and graphic novels (manga). Together, they intertwine form with sound and meaning, creating a typeface that offers a near-holistic medium of communication while being embedded in Japanese visual culture. The font’s parametric variables of a KIKI-BOUBA axis and a CONTRAST axis further expand the spectrum of communication potential. Onomatopoeic expressions speak their meanings first and foremost through form and sound, breaking linguistic barriers and granting a strictly iconic form of communication.