WEEKLY

SOMETHING ABOUT MTR (I)
地鐵二三事(上)

「下一站,金鐘……」廣播響起,對香港的上班族來說,大概沒有比這更令人膽顫心驚的事了。人聲吵嚷的車廂中,乘客紛紛為自己設下一重保護罩,抵抗金鐘站如鯽的人潮。另一邊廂,在金鐘站月台上等待的人也同樣面臨危機,暗自盤算着能否擠進這班車。與其埋頭變成沙甸魚,不如環顧四周,看看人稱「地鐵宋」的港鐵字體,欣賞另類的城市景觀吧!

約莫兩年前開始,港鐵為月台車站的站名披上新衣,轉用新的字型,而一幅採用新字型的金鐘站照片更引來網民熱烈討論。究竟「地鐵宋」是怎樣衍生的?「地鐵宋」是港鐵找來字體設計師柯熾堅創作的字體,雖然被廣泛視為宋體,但實際上稱作明體比較正確。這種字體的特點是直粗橫細,末端有裝飾線條。

在亞洲地區如香港、台灣、日本等,一般路牌和指示牌均採用黑體。如果大家有留意,香港國際機場內處處都可找到黑體字,其字體均勻對稱,指示也就一目了然。港鐵則是少數派,多年來堅持用明體,絕對是突破常規的做法。相較於黑體,明體的線條幼細,有不少留白的空間,不但讓人容易辨識,更舒服易讀,有助減少眼睛的疲勞。除了字體的顯示效果外,柯熾堅還另有用意:「地鐵是城市精神的表徵,而明體,這個帶有濃厚楷書基因的字體,用於站牌,才能彰顯中華文化的氣氛。對於香港這樣的國際都會來說,或許有宣示在地主體性的意味。」文字為文化的載體,車站乃是中外遊客的必經之地,字體設計自不可敷衍了事。「地鐵宋」實用性與美感兼備,難怪香港人如此喜愛。

「地鐵宋」是根據中國其中一本最有權威的古代字書──《康熙字典》的筆劃標準創造而成。回溯80年代,那時候尚未有先進的電腦技術,故柯熾堅須手動調整筆劃比例和文字間距,全憑感覺和經驗拿捏。然而,原來「地鐵宋」曾經過幾番調整,若然我們在車站逛一圈,便會發現「地鐵宋」並不是只有一款字型,相似的字款中有不少迥異之處。香港年輕字體設計師許瀚文說過,「地鐵宋」是個模糊的概念,當中混合幾款字體,包括儷宋體、蒙納宋體等。

第一代「地鐵宋」深受香港地鐵迷追捧,其筆劃尖細,橫線較幼,回勾鋒利如針,本應是水滴形的點則變成長條形的橫線。第二代「地鐵宋」經過微調,部份邊緣變得圓滑,字型亦相對闊身,但比例恰到好處。第三代的部分直線加粗了,讓文字看起來細小一點。另外,英文字體亦由中性、具平衡感的Helvetica轉為蘋果公司常用的Myriad,筆劃比較圓滑,多了一份親和力。我認為字體或字型並非僅為了美觀而生,反而要做到簡潔、有條理,方可稱得上為一款好字體或字型。姑勿論你認為它們美觀與否,其存在總有特別意義,更是字匠的一番心血。

有人希望港鐵沿用第一代「地鐵宋」,亦有人偏好新的字型,的確是蘿蔔青菜,各有所愛。文字充滿生命力,它們本身有其字義,又可當作是圖像,配合不同排版需要再作修整,成為嶄新的產物。觀賞字體,其實也能學習靈活變通的道理。

撰文:王以珞
照片:justfont blog網站、香港鐵路大典網站
美術:王曉澄

“The next station is Admiralty…” As the broadcast states the next station name, the passengers inside the compartments, mostly office workers in Hong Kong, start to tremble with anxiety. The passengers, looking panic-stricken, try their best to defend themselves against a huge throng on the platform of Admiralty station. On the other hand, those on the platform also keep thinking if they could get on the train. But rather than being like sardines, why don’t we look around the station and appreciate the typeface so-called “MTRSong”? There are still hidden gems of this font to be found!

Since 2 years ago, the MTR Corporation has begun to adopt a new font for some of the station names. The alterations are made based on the original “MTRSong”, and a photo of the new font of Admiralty station even triggers debate among netizens. But what is “MTRSong”? It is indeed a typeface created especially for the MTR Corporation by a font designer, Sammy Or. Although it is widely known as a Song typeface, it would be more accurate to call it Ming typeface. The characteristics of this typeface include thick vertical strokes contrasted with thin horizontal strokes, plus the end of the strokes are embellished.

In many countries and cities in Asia such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, Hei typeface is normally adopted for road signs and signboards. You could find Hei typeface ubiquitously located on the signboards in Hong Kong International Airport, as Hei typeface shows a greater tendency towards symmetrical design. Yet, the MTR Corporation belongs to a minority, which keeps using Ming typeface throughout these years. Compared to Hei typeface, the strokes of Ming typeface are thinner with more blank space, making the fonts clearly legible and readable. Apart from the display adequacy of the typeface, Sammy Or also has another intention. “MTR is the symbol of the city’s spirit. Greatly influenced by the regular script, Ming typeface demonstrates the atmosphere of Chinese culture. To an international metropolis like Hong Kong, this might be considered as a declaration of local subjectivity.” Words themselves are the carriers of culture. Thus, typeface design for MTR stations, where visitors from all over the world would pass by every day, must not be handled in a perfunctory way. “MTRSong” perfectly integrates functionality with aesthetics, and that is why Hongkongers like it so much.

“MTRSong” were not created at random, but according to the stroke order mentioned in Kangxi Dictionary, one of the most authoritative Chinese dictionaries in China. Dating back to 1980s, the computer technology was not very advanced, so Sammy Or had to adjust the ratios of the strokes as well as the space between words with his bare hands and experiences. However, “MTRSong” has been modified for a few times. If we wander around the MTR stations, it is not difficult for us to discover that there are more than one type of font. Julius Hui, a young font designer in Hong Kong, suggests that “MTRSong” is a vague concept, as it comprises a few typefaces including the Li Song and Monotype Song family.

The first generation of “MTRSong” is very popular among railway enthusiasts. It has sharp strokes, thin horizontal strokes, needle-like hooks, and its dots resemble horizontal lines. With a good balance, the second generation of “MTRSong” has smoother edges and greater width. As for the third generation of “MTRSong”, the vertical strokes is thickened, making the words look smaller. Besides, the English font has changed from the neutral, well-balanced Helvetica to Myriad, which is commonly used by Apple Inc. The latter looks more rounded, evoking a sense of hospitability. I believe good typefaces or fonts should not be determined solely by the artistic feel, but also their conciseness. No matter if you think they are beautiful or not, there are reasons to justify their existence. And they are created with a lot of hard work.

Some people hope the MTR Corporation would continue to use the first generation of “MTRSong”, whereas the other people go for the new fonts. Apparently, people have different preferences towards fonts. Fonts are full of vitality—they carry meaningful contents, and can also be treated as graphics to meet the typesetting needs. Last but not least, appreciating different fonts allows us to learn to be flexible, too.

Text: Elok Wong
Photo: justfont blog website, Encyclopedia of Rail Transport in Hong Kong website
Art: Agnes Wong

ISSUE #204

SOMETHING ABOUT MTR (I)

 

TEL +853 2833 6288
FAX  +853 2833 6266
Info@chessman.com.mo 
R.de Pequim, Edf. Com. Kong Fat. 9/AB, Macau

TEL +852 2180 4188
 FAX +852 2180 9615
 Info@chessman.com.hk
 Unit 2703-04, 9 Chong Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

All right reserved ® CHESSMAN