Credit: Information Services Department (Hong Kong Year Book 1983).
圖片由政府新聞處提供,取自《香港年報 1983》。


Since the 1970s, Hong Kong’s road signs have all been handmade by prisoners. The road signs manufactured before May 1997 were handcrafted. They feature a unique and distinct Chinese typeface that we now call Prison Gothic. As the road signs used to be manufactured by persons in custody, the text on the road signs were carved by hand, creating its unique look and feel.

The Prison Gothic Revival Programme aims to digitise the Chinese characters on the road signs. It mainly focuses on the styling of the text on the road signs in Hong Kong manufactured before 1997.


一九七零年,監獄署(今懲敎署)接受工務司署委託,爲港九各道路製作路牌及交通標誌;而在囚人士手造之中文字體被稱爲「監獄體」。 自一九九七年,路牌製作工序電腦化;電腦字型路牌逐步取代舊式的監獄體路牌。


惟近年起,有不少人誤以爲路牌上的監獄體爲錯字,甚至有區議員要求路政署「改正」。 隨著路牌老化、道路翻新,這些極具懷舊風味的字體逐漸消失在我們眼前。



The official use of Prison Gothic discontinued in 1997. They were replaced by digital fonts on the new signs. We started by photographing the remaining older road signs. According to our research, there are only about 500 remaining Prison Gothic road signs.


監獄體自一九九七年停產,隨着道路通車、改道、城市發展,監獄體路牌逐漸被電腦字體路牌所取代。 我們在二零一六年開展「監獄體再現計劃」,首階段是將全香港僅餘的監獄體路牌以照片方式紀錄下來。 據統計,現時全香港祇剩約五百多塊路牌;而每年大約有五至十塊的監獄體路牌被拆除。

Prison Gothic type specimen.


After the Prison Gothic road signs were found and photographs taken, the shapes of the captured glyphs are traced and imported into the type design software. The Glyphs program was used for encoding and fine-tuning of the characters, as well as alternative, extended glyphs provided with the default character set.


監獄體路牌被尋獲和拍照以後,字體的外框會用電腦勾畫出來,再導入 Glyphs 軟件,用作字體編碼、字體造型的微調。擴充的字符亦以 Glyphs 軟件製作。


We derive characters from those that appear on road signs, which are usually place names and traffic-related messages with approximately 500 characters, making up less than 10% of the generally used character set. Therefore, new characters were composed using the components of the traced characters.


依據路牌上字體造型描畫的監獄體,通常為地名或與交通相關。 字數祇得五百字左右,而一般一套中文電腦字型至少需要七千字;這些字遠遠不足應付中文字型的要求。 因此,利用描畫的監獄體的部件拼湊出新的字以擴充字符。


Prison Gothic uses traditional character form as well as including variant Chinese characters. These writing styles are different from how Chinese characters is written and shown today. It is what makes Prison Gothic so special and unique.

Since computerisation of general publishing and the introduction of Chinese computer operating systems in 1990s, people started to use new forms of writing based on the standard typefaces provided by operating systems. The traditional characters are therefore left forgotten; some people even think that they are wrong!




Structure & Stroke

Prison Gothic has a tight zhonggong and a high visual centre (shown on upper left). And because how the text on road signs were manufactured by hand, the utilization of glyph space is also unique (shown on upper right).

There are tapered shapes at the terminals of the strokes (lower left). The thickness of the strokes in complicated Chinese characters are maintained to mimic the original design, which aims to utilize as much negative spaces as possible (lower right).




Font Features

8,000 characters included

The Prison Gothic font includes approximately 8,000 characters for fulfilling most use cases. Other than written Chinese, the character set also includes written Cantonese characters, Latin alphabets, numbers, Bopomofo symbols and necessary punctuation marks.

Alternate glyphs

Owing to the fully handmade nature of Prison Gothic road signs, the writing styles of some characters may differ from sign to sign. To keep the Prison Gothic font as original as possible, the Alternate Glyphs function available in OpenType is utilized to help users replicate what was shown in the road signs, as far as possible. This demonstration video shows Alternate Glyphs in practical use in Adobe Illustrator.

Use of emoji encoding

Emoji encoding is used by Prison Gothic to include common symbols shown in road signs, monotone and coloured.





由於是全人手製作,每一塊的監獄體路牌都可能會有不同的寫法。爲了追求原汁原味,字體利用 OpenType 的 Alternate Glyphs 功能,收錄監獄體各種變異寫法,務求完美重現視覺記憶。片段示範利用 Adobe Illustrator,切換字元成不同寫法。


監獄體利用 Emoji 編碼收錄路牌常見的圖案,單色及彩色一應俱全。

Credit: Information Services Department (Hong Kong Year Book 1983).
圖片由政府新聞處提供,取自《香港年報 1983》。

Get Prison Gothic

After six years of development, Prison Gothic Medium is now available! The font will contain 13,000 characters, covering 99.9% of frequently used words.

The full price of Prison Gothic will be HK$2,500.

*The perpetual licence is for one person/company use only and can be installed on two devices. It may also be used for commercial purposes. However, acceptable use excludes trademark registration, embedding of font files into web servers, mobile apps or transmission of font files to third parties. Please refer to the EULA for details.

Buy now.


經歷六年開發,監獄體 Medium 終於面世!字體內含 13,000 漢字,滿足 99.9% 日常應用所需,廣泛覆蓋各方面應用漢字。

一套監獄體 Medium 永久授權售價爲 HK$2,500。