My 28+ Years of #AdobeLife

Dr Ken Lunde
14 min readOct 26, 2019

By Dr Ken Lunde, Janitor, Spirits of Christmas Past

My 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-year awards

Over 28 years ago—on Monday, July 1st, 1991—my life was put on a new path. I was 25 years old at the time, and I am 54 years old as of this writing. It was on this date that I started working for Adobe as a member of its Type Development team. My employee number was 879, though at the time there were approximately 500 employees in total. It was a much smaller company back in 1991. As you can see from my very first business card below, I was involved in things related to Japanese type from the very beginning:

1991 Business Card

This decision effectively launched a very successful 28-year career, which had been in the same department doing essentially the same thing, though the technologies and related standards had naturally changed or evolved over those many years.

The rest of this necessarily lengthy article will be used to highlight some of my accomplishments during each five-year period, culminating to Friday, October 18th, 2019, which was my last date as an Adobe employee.

The First 5 Years

So, to begin my story, one of my first projects at Adobe was to use a new typeface-design technology that we called Cube to create a small proof-of-concept font based on the Heisei Mincho W3 (平成明朝 W3) typeface design. This technology was so named because it was thought that three design axes could be used for the individual multiple master–like elements that are used as stroke-like components to compose glyphs for kanji. I ended up presenting the results to Adobe’s co-founders, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, in late 1991. This technology — though with additional design axes beyond the initial three — was eventually used to design the glyphs for kanji in the Kozuka Mincho (小塚明朝) and Kozuka Gothic (小塚ゴシック) typeface designs, along with the glyphs for ideographs (aka hànzì, kanji, and hanja) and hangul syllables in the Adobe-branded Source Han and Google-branded Noto CJK Pan-CJK typeface families.

Other significant projects during this period were the production of the first two Heisei (平成) fonts—Heisei Mincho W3 (平成明朝 W3) and Heisei Kaku Gothic W5 (平成角ゴシック W5)—that were released as a package called Adobe ValuePack-J, along with a package called 平成明朝 W3 GaijiPack that included the glyphs for JIS X 0212-1990, along with 250 glyphs for JIS C 6226-1978 (aka JIS78) kanji as a set of single-byte–encoded Type 1 fonts.

Speaking of glyphs, I published Adobe’s first Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean glyph sets as Adobe-GB1-0, Adobe-CNS1-0, and Adobe-Korea1-0, respectively. Adobe-GB1-1 and Adobe-Korea1-1 were also published during this first five-year period. See Adobe-GB1-5 (formerly Adobe Tech Note #5079), Adobe-CNS1-7 (formerly Adobe Tech Note #5080), and the now-deprecated Adobe-Korea1-2 (aka Adobe Tech Note #5093) for more details.

Two other achievements during this first five years were the writing and typesetting (using Aldus PageMaker Version 4.0J) of my first book, Understanding Japanese Information Processing, which was published in 1993, followed by my PhD (linguistics) dissertation, entitled Prescriptive Kanji Simplification, that I wrote and successfully defended the following year. The Japanese translation of my book, aptly entitled 日本語情報処理 (nihongo jōhō shori), was published by SoftBank in 1995.

Years 6 through 10

Like with all things, change is inevitable, and one of the first things that took place during this five-year period was the moving of Adobe’s headquarters from Mountain View to downtown San José in early September of 1996.

This second five-year period gave to me the opportunity to do the production for Adobe’s very first Adobe Originals Japanese typeface families, the first one being Kozuka Mincho (小塚明朝), initially deployed as sfnt-wrapped CIDFonts in 1997, followed by Kozuka Gothic (小塚ゴシック), initially deployed as OpenType/CFF fonts in 2001. It was also during this period that OpenType was born, in April of 1997 to be exact.

I also wrote and typeset (using Adobe FrameMaker Version 5.5) my second book, CJKV Information Processing, which was published at the end of 1998.

Three rather significant events occurred in the year 2000.

First, I published Adobe’s very first “Pro” Japanese glyph set, Adobe-Japan1-4, in February of that year. The CD in the photo at the beginning of this section shows evidence for Adobe-Japan1-4 CID+14106 (劍󠄁; aka Adobe-Japan1 IVS <528D E0101>). Related to CJK glyph sets during this period, I also published Supplements 2 through 4 of Adobe-GB1, Supplements 1 through 3 of Adobe-CNS1, and the now-deprecated Adobe-Korea1-2.

Second, my daughter, Ruby (瑠美), was born in the following month. She’s 19 years old now, and recently started her second year of college. She is also a native speaker of both English and Japanese, and can therefore communicate with both sets of grandparents. She is also a top-notch student. She continues to make my wife and I very proud. Speaking of my lovely wife, I knew her professionally for approximately five years as a co-worker before we married. (Interestingly, if she hadn’t left Adobe approximately six years ago, she would have celebrated her 25-year anniversary the same year as me.) As the photo below suggests, we both enjoy drinking fine wine.

Photo Credit: Kiyotaka Taki

As an aside, both of our sons were born before either of us joined Adobe. Both make us proud. Our oldest one works for Google and made my wife and me grandparents over three years ago, and our youngest one works for Sony in Madison, Wisconsin where he happened to be born.

Third, I founded the Adobe Marksmanship League in October of that year, which has been meeting once a month except for December (due to the holidays), and receives funding from Adobe on a quarterly basis that covers range fees, targets, and even ammunition. Its purpose is to promote safe and responsible firearm use, along with providing an opportunity to hone one’s marksmanship skills. The 200th event took place in May of this year, and the average number of attendees is currently at 14. Although the league is now in the capable hands of others, keeping this activity alive was particularly important to me, mainly because it aptly demonstrates that firearm ownership and use by law-abiding people is absolutely not a problem, and shall never be a problem. I like to refer to this is the other side of the diversity coin. Speaking of diversity, be sure to read this blog article by Chris Cheng, former Google employee, Top Shot Season 4 champion, and LGBT advocate.

Years 11 through 15

The JIS X 0213:2000 standard was published shortly after the Adobe-Japan1-4 glyph set was released. This ultimately led to the development of Adobe-Japan1-5, which was done in cooperation with our friends at Apple, and issued in 2002. Adobe-Japan1-6, whose primary purpose was to incorporate the remaining glyphs for the JIS X 0212-1990 standard, was subsequently issued in 2004. This resulted in the deprecation of the Adobe-Japan2-0 glyph set (aka Adobe Tech Note #5097), which can be found here. Also during this period, I published the still-current Adobe-GB1-5, along with Supplements 4 and 5 of Adobe-CNS1.

Lastly, and Japanese and (Traditional) Chinese translations of my second book were published in 2002, entitled CJKV 日中韓越情報処理 and 中日韓越資訊處理, respectively.

Years 16 through 20

Among the most interesting and challenging typeface designs I helped to develop was Kazuraki (かづらき), whose active development began in 2006, and which was first released in 2009. Its typeface designer is the very talented Ryoko NISHIZUKA (西塚涼子) in the Tokyo branch of our team. In addition to being the very first fully-proportional Japanese font, it also represents the first broad deployment of the special-purpose Adobe-Identity-0 ROS. To learn more about the Kazuraki development process, please go through my ATypI Hong Kong 2012 presentation.

Related to Japanese and Unicode, my first IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) collection, Adobe-Japan1, was registered at the end of 2007. For those who are unaware, the IVD represents a mechanism for supporting unencoded ideograph (aka kanji) variants in “plain text” using variation sequences. Adobe-Japan1 remains the most broadly implemented IVD collection, and is supported by hundreds of OpenType Japanese fonts. I also became the IVD Registrar during this period, meaning that I currently manage all aspects of the IVID. This article from over three years ago provides some information about the state of IVD support.

I wrote and typeset (using Adobe InDesign CS3-J) my third book, CJKV Information Processing, Second Edition, which was published at the end of 2008.

I also published the Adobe-CNS1-6 glyph set, designed to accommodate Hong Kong SCS-2008.

My first and only patent, entitled Methods and apparatus for retrieving font data, which was originally filed on April 21st, 2006, was issued on May 3rd, 2011 as US Patent 7937658.

Lastly, I became directly involved in the development of the ISO/IEC 14496-28 standard, entitled Information technology — Coding of audio-visual objects — Part 28: Composite font representation. This standard was first published in 2012, and while it was originally designed to break the 64K-glyph barrier by defining CFR (Composite Font Representation) objects that reference one or more component fonts, it can also be used to define fallback fonts with very rich settings. I managed to successfully argue that this ISO standard be added to the freely-available ones. Be sure to read this article that is one of several CJK Type Blog articles about this standard.

Years 21 through 25

For the first time during my years at Adobe, I had an opportunity to attend an ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) conference, which was ATypI Hong Kong 2012 that took place in October of 2012. This was also the first time that this annual conference took place in East Asia, so it made complete sense for me to attend it, and to present, twice. I first presented Kazuraki: Under The Hood, and then presented the first two hours of a three-hour workshop, with my portion being entitled Manipulating CID-Keyed Fonts Using AFDKO Tools. My esteemed colleague, Masataka HATTORI (服部正貴), delivered the last hour of the workshop, with his portion being entitled Turning CID-Keyed Fonts Into OpenType Fonts Using AFDKO. I very much enjoyed attending this conference, which gave me an opportunity to meet and speak with key people in the fields of type design and type development.

My biggest accomplishment over these five years was the planning, development, and deployment of the Adobe-branded Source Han Sans and Google-branded Noto Sans CJK open source Pan-CJK typeface families. This project represents the culmination of an idea that I had way back in 1994, and in many ways represented a dream come true.

I also became Adobe’s primary representative to The Unicode Consortium in March of 2015 when Eric Muller left Adobe. I had been serving as Adobe’s alternate representative from January of 2006. I started to attend all four UTC (Unicode Technical Committee) meetings per year.

To end this section, I would like to point out that while reaching this 25-year milestone was clearly an important personal achievement, the average tenure of the Adobe Type Team peaked at slightly over 20 years at one point. In terms of individual tenure, I ranked second in the team, behind world-renown typeface designer Robert Slimbach (1987).

Years 26 through 28+

This section provide details about my final three years at Adobe.

First and foremost—and likely key to my post-Adobe adventures—I took on a lot more Unicode-related responsibilities during the last three years, such as hosting the monthly Unicode Editorial Committee meetings at Adobe, and becoming a co-editor of UAX #50 (Unicode Vertical Text Layout). 2018 was a particularly good year, as I became a Unicode Individual Lifetime Member, received the prestigious 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award (watch the video), and became a Unicode Technical Director. In 2019, I became an Emoji Subcommittee Vice-Chair.

2018 was also the year when my wife and I bought a pair of Tesla Model 3 EVs. The best cars we’ve ever owned, and I cannot recommend them enough.

Both are Long Range Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive versions. Mine is Pearl White with a white interior, and my wife’s is Red with a black interior. Both bear California Snoopy Plates, though mine is personalized. I drove mine to Hot Springs, South Dakota twice thus far.

Tesla Model 3 with “CJKV” Snoopy Plate

For those who are not aware, I am a big fan of open source, and ended up deploying and maintaining 33 open source projects on GitHub.

The following 12 open source projects are available in Adobe Type Tools: The Adobe-CNS1-7 Character Collection, The Adobe-GB1-5 Character Collection, The Adobe-Japan1-7 Character Collection, The Adobe-KR-9 Character Collection, AGL & AGLFN, AGL Specification, CMap Resources, Command-line Perl Scripts, KRName IVD Collection, Mapping Resources for PDF, PanCJKV IVD Collection (UNREGISTERED) & PostScript error handler.

And, the following 21 open source projects are available in Adobe Fonts: Adobe Blank, Adobe Blank 2, Adobe Blank VF & Friends, Adobe NotDef, CJK Radicals (CJK Radicals Supplement & Kangxi Radicals), CSS Orientation Test, FDArray Test, IVS Test, Kenten Generic, LOCL Test, Source Han Mono (思源等宽 | 思源等寬 | 思源等寬 香港 | 源ノ等幅 | 본모노), Source Han Sans (思源黑体 | 思源黑體 | 思源黑體 香港 | 源ノ角ゴシック | 본고딕), Source Han Serif (思源宋体 | 思源宋體 | 源ノ明朝 | 본명조), Source Han & Noto CJK Mega/Ultra OTCs, Source LOCL Test, Tally Marks OpenType-SVG Font, Tombo SP, Variable Font Collection Test, White On Black VF versus Black On White VF, Width & Vertical Width VF & Width Test.

In terms of Pan-CJK typefaces, I architected, developed, and deployed Source Han Serif (and Noto Serif CJK) in 2017 (watch the promotional video in which I make appearances) and Source Han Mono (a derivative of Source Han Sans) in 2019, and developed and deployed a major update of Source Han Sans (and Noto Sans CJK) in 2018 that added Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong as a fifth supported language.

68 ideographs in Source Han Sans Version 2.001 that require five separate language-specific glyphs

In terms of other typefaces, I architected and developed two major versions of Ten Mincho (貂明朝), Version 2.000 of which became an OpenType-SVG font.

Ten Mincho (貂明朝) SVG Glyphs

I also developed additional test fonts, along with Variable Font versions of Adobe Blank and Adobe Blank 2. I also increased the number of IVSes (Ideographic Variation Sequences) supported by IVS Test from about 22 million to nearly 40 million. The Adobe-KR-9 glyph set, which replaces Adobe-Korea1-2, was also published.

2019 was unprecedented in that a new era began in Japan on May 1st. The last time this happened was over 30 years, before Unicode existed. There was a lot of work that was done before and after the announcement of the actual era name, Reiwa (令和), on April 1st of this year, and I was in the thick of it. See the link to the recording of my ATypI Tokyo 2019 presentation in the next paragraph to get more details. My IUC43 presentation can also be referenced.

Japan’s new era name Reiwa (令和) and its horizontal and vertical square ligature forms

My last year at Adobe provided to me an opportunity to attend ATypI for a second time, specifically ATypI Tokyo 2019. For those who would like to watch the recording of my 20-minute presentation, please click here.

The last thing that I will force readers to endure is a look at my final Adobe business card, which was quite classy, if I may be so bold:

2019 Business Card

I did briefly hold the title of Type Architect during my last two months of employment, but sadly didn’t have an opportunity to order new business cards, which, in retrospect, would have been a waste.

It certainly was a long and exciting ride, consuming more than half of my life to date, and I learned plenty of things over many years. Naturally, I still have plenty more to learn, and more opportunities and challenges lie ahead. I worked with many highly-talented colleagues at Adobe, and many of the achievements described above wouldn’t have been possible without their help, support, encouragement, and constructive criticism. And, with that stated…

— So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish —

Chez Lunde

Until my next big adventure begins—and there will be a next big adventure—my affiliation will simply be Janitor at Spirits of Christmas Past, which can be found in Almaden Valley, San José, California, USA, Northwestern Hemisphere, Terra, Sol, Orion-Cygnus Arm, Milky Way, Local Group, Laniakea Supercluster.

About the Author

Dr Ken Lunde worked at Adobe for over twenty-eight years — from 1991-07-01 to 2019-10-18 — specializing in CJKV Type Development, meaning that he architected and developed fonts for East Asian typefaces, along with the standards and specifications on which they are based. He architected and developed the Adobe-branded “Source Han” (Source Han Sans, Source Han Serif, and Source Han Mono) and Google-branded “Noto CJK” (Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK) open source Pan-CJK typeface families that were released in 2014, 2017, and 2019, is the author of CJKV Information Processing Second Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2009), and published over 300 articles on Adobe’s now-static CJK Type Blog. Ken earned BA (1987), MA (1988), and PhD (1994) degrees in linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, served as Adobe’s representative to the Unicode Consortium since 2006, was Adobe’s primary representative from 2015 until 2019, serves as Unicode’s IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) Registrar, attends UTC and IRG meetings, participates in the Unicode Editorial Committee, became an individual Unicode Life Member in 2018, received the 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award, was a Unicode Technical Director from 2018 to 2020, became a Vice-Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee in 2019, published UTN #43 (Unihan Database Property “kStrange”) in 2020, and became the Chair of the CJK & Unihan Group in 2021. He and his wife, Hitomi, are proud owners of a His & Hers pair of acceleration-boosted 2018 LR AWD Tesla Model 3 EVs.



Dr Ken Lunde

Chair, CJK & Unihan Working Group—Almaden Valley—San José—CA—USA—NW Hemisphere—Terra—Sol—Orion-Cygnus Arm—Milky Way—Local Group—Laniakea Supercluster