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Definition of Tofu in Graphic Design

In graphic design, “tofu” refers to the phenomenon where characters or glyphs are displayed as empty rectangles or squares, often due to a lack of appropriate font support for certain languages or characters. The term “tofu” originates from the resemblance of these empty boxes to the popular soy-based food, tofu.


Tofu occurs when a font used in a design lacks the necessary glyphs to represent characters in a particular language, script, or symbol set. This can result in a visually disruptive and unintelligible appearance in text, impacting readability and user experience.

Related Terms

  • Glyphs: The individual characters or symbols in a typeface, including letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and special characters.
  • Unicode: A standardized system for encoding characters and symbols from all the world’s writing systems, ensuring universal compatibility across different platforms and software.
  • Font Substitution: The automatic replacement of missing glyphs in a font with similar characters from a fallback font to prevent tofu from appearing in text.
  • Font Family: A group of related typefaces or fonts that share similar design characteristics, including variations in weight, style, and width.
  • Localization: The process of adapting digital content, including typography and user interfaces, to suit the linguistic, cultural, and regional preferences of specific target audiences.

Related questions about the term tofu 

  • What causes tofu to appear in text, and how can designers prevent or minimize its occurrence?
    Tofu occurs when a font lacks the necessary glyphs to display certain characters. Designers can address this by choosing fonts with extensive language support or by implementing font fallback mechanisms.
  • How does tofu impact the readability and usability of text in graphic design projects?
    Tofu can disrupt the visual flow of text and make it difficult for users to comprehend the content, leading to decreased readability and usability, particularly in multilingual or international contexts.
  • Are there specific design considerations or best practices to minimize tofu when working with typography?
    Designers should prioritize fonts that support a wide range of characters and languages, conduct thorough testing across different platforms and devices, and implement fallback font strategies to ensure consistent rendering of text.
  • What role does Unicode play in addressing tofu-related issues in graphic design?
    Unicode provides a standardized encoding system for representing characters from various writing systems, enabling designers to use fonts that support a broad range of languages and symbols, thereby reducing the occurrence of tofu.
  • In what ways can tofu impact the accessibility of digital content for diverse audiences?
    Tofu can pose accessibility barriers for users who rely on screen readers or assistive technologies, as it may prevent the accurate interpretation of text content. Ensuring proper font support and accessibility standards can help mitigate these issues.


Creatopy Team
Creatopy is the AI-driven creative automation platform that enables brands and agencies alike to build, optimize and personalize creatives at scale for various markets, channels and digital platforms.

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