Tencent's new logo and typeface: Can you spot the difference?

Why the internet giant decided to mark its upcoming 20-year anniversary by splashing out on a new typeface.

Tencent has a new logo and a new typeface that includes more than 7,000 italicised Chinese, Japanese and Latin letters. The company commissioned a multinational team from Monotype to design the fonts.

While the redesign was revealed during the Chinese internet giant's 19th anniversary in November, the launch of the new logo and typeface was nevertheless a precursor to mark its 20th anniversary next year.

The company behind the Chinese super-social app WeChat, Tencent has made news recently with record earnings and its achievement as the first Asian tech company to hit $500 billion in valuation. A new logo and typeface might seem like an odd way to celebrate, but in truth Tencent has held onto the same logo and typeface since its beginnings in Shenzhen. Moreover, the company wants to project its inventiveness to a more global audience going forward. 

Julius Hui, the typographer behind the Chinese typeface, noted in the video above that designing italicised Chinese characters is a painstaking process due to the ideographic nature of the Chinese letters, which typically fit into a square. "The italic font slants forward to the right, which can create a sense of speed and forward momentum," Hui told Campaign Asia-Pacific in an interview. The new designs will be used on all of Tencent's brand communications including on advertisements and headlines.

"When people think of Tencent they think of a bold, youthful, innovative company with incredible technology," said Juan Villanueva, type designer at Monotype. "We wanted to design a modern typeface to be reflective of that."

Akira Kobayashi, the designer of the Japanese fonts, said the new designs were necessary because Tencent believes that is important to communicate and convey its message with a bold, unique voice. "With this new typeface, they hope to convey their inventiveness and uniqueness to a broader market," said Kobayashi. 

However, just what consitutes a "modern typeface" that suits the DNA of a tech brand? Facebook, which changed its logo in 2015, favoured thinner letters and squared-off ends. For Sunny Lai, ECD and creative partner at Reload and a self-professed design geek, it is a matter of the "straightness" of the Chinese letters. "The straighter Chinese fonts give a more techie feel, and the entire logo is taller and feels more 'lifted'," he said. "The straighter letters are now better matched with the English fonts, since typical Chinese letters have more curves" he said.

Chinese netizens have responded to the new design with equal shares of apathy, hate and admiration, the latter reserved for Tencent's dispositon to flex its financial muscle to spend on the redesign.

While some people have questioned why Tencent felt it needed Japanese and Latin fonts, other more ambivalent commenters noted that the redesign it too subtle to catch the attention of those not trained in design. However, others who liked the font expressed dismay that the typeface cannot be used to type messages on WeChat.

Lai too said the changes may be a tad too subtle for some consumers to appreciate. "When comparing the two logos (new and old) side-by-side, I personally prefer the new one. The colour is fresher and brighter, and feels a little more vibrant." 

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