Uppercase germandbls is coming to Unicode

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Nick Shinn's picture
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Like others, I have come to the conclusion that it absolutely must have a top left corner, otherwise it will look like a lowercase letter.

Like others, I have come to the opposite conclusion.
IMO a top left corner makes the letter too busy, accentuating its "ligaturishness" rather than its integrity as a discrete character.
In all your examples, the lower case "s" is clearly visible--it would be better to more fully integrate it into the letter form.
Don't the better lower-case "ß" designs follow the principle of camouflaging the "s" component?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Nick, I think I'm starting to understand you. But your use of "unnaturally" concerns me; I don't think conscious human intervention is unnatural. As the Midnight Oil lyric goes: "Going against Nature is part of Nature too." I would go further and say that conscious design is, as a rule, a Good Thing. Just look at Hangul.

> Could we not at least try to start in roughly
> the place it feels like it ’ought’ to start

Well, I agree with that; but I don't think what it ought to look like is based on anything more than what readers need - and to me readers specifically don't need something that looks like two other letters fused together. Since I believe that the upper limit of the number of symbols in a writing system that readers can handle is many orders of magnitude greater than merely 26, I think it's better for a symbol to look only like itself. This is why I favor the contemporary form of the ampersand, and I dislike @ signs where the inside part is a binocular "a".

hhp

paul d hunt's picture
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yes, what's the intention? and what does the standard uppercase mapping for “ß” will remain “SS” mean exactly?

Claudio Piccinini's picture
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This thread has a sort of surreal vein to it… :=)

I tried to work out my solution for Neoritmo, and I am satisfied with it. I must say I probably cheated, since Neoritmo, from its conception, already incorporates what "technical people" would call a sort of "disntegration/integration of bicameral logic", and it has an uppercase H which is still rooted in the lowercase. A beta of Neoritmo can be seen here: http://www.cannibal.gr/multimedia_sub.aspx?cat=3&sub=7&prj=38&xyz=742&la...
I will try to post my "Double S" ASAP…

E. Kovacs's picture
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There are several features of German typography that it would be more appropriate to include in a digital font, such as caps with lowered umlauts, and ch and ck digraphs.

Maybe they were simply distracted by more pressing affairs? After all, there are significant improvements elsewhere in Unicode 5.1 that address greater communication needs: code points for checkers, dominoes, and mah-jong tiles! ;)

Jos Buivenga's picture
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... what does the standard uppercase mapping for “ß” will remain “SS” mean exactly?

That means that if you try to incorporate the capital ß into an OpenType case feature it will work fine but only in FontLab :-)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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As Ralf said though, there's a difference between
basic members of an alphabet versus ligatures.

hhp

Chris Lozos's picture
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Funny, it doesn't look Uish :-)

ChrisL

Jason Pagura's picture
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Has anybody heard any new developments about this whole deal here?
Does anyone care to add their thoughts?

Mark Simonson's picture
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I read nothing but Bs even if I try to see a cap Eszett.

I was afraid you'd say that. :-)

Depending on the font (Georgia's not bad, because of the old style figures), many of these are hard to distinguish without context: Il1, O0o, rnm, 5S, 2Zz. In some cases, the only differences are a little hook or serif or corner instead of a curve or a slight gap or difference in height or width.

Context helps a lot. Even the current ß, if used in place of a B, reads as a B.

It's problematic to introduce a new form to the alphabet. Reading depends on familiarity of forms. If a novel form is introduced, it's natural to try to interpret it as a letter we already know. (A lot of logos use this to great effect.) In cases where there are two words, such as große and grobe, it may take more time to get used to, but I suspect that this is an edge case and unusual, and that most words that contain ß do not have such an evil twin and would be interpreted correctly due to context, given time to become familiar with the new form (even mine).

In any case, as someone who doesn't read German natively, I do feel at a disadvantage with this problem. I'm just trying to apply what I know to the problem and making some observations. Part of my motivation for speaking up is selfish: Some of the proposed designs look very awkward to me and I would hate to have to be the one to adapt them into existing faces.

TG's picture
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Still I cannot help considering the uppercase Eszett as a bastard. ... any uppercase version needs to come up with an uppercase long-s which never existed and which must be unintelligent by design.

This sort of logic is common, but I don't think it is right. Are German umlauts bastards because they are originally build from a lowercase letter (e) placed on top of a capital letter? Is an A a wrong character because the ox was turned upside down? This sort of logic, that is based on a character's history or the history of parts of the letters doesn't lead anywhere.
Letters are nothing but tools and they should be judged according to this and nothing else. Capital Umlauts were created because there was a need for them. And now is the time for the capital sharp S. We just need to figure out the right shape(s) of this tool. And this design process should be based on the question of what works best for the user/reader, not on the history of Eszett (which is unclear till today anyhow).

paul d hunt's picture
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where can i find the ‘official’ version of the German alphabet?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Nick, I agree that there's too much "ligaturishness" overall, and that that's bad. But it's actually not the top-left corner doing that - how could the corner there be causing the overt visibility of the [second] "s"? I think the corner is helpful; but Adam's preferred form is not good enough.

hhp

TG's picture
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Here is the official and mandatory, most recent version of the German orthography from 2006, defined by the Council for German Orthography:
Rules: http://rechtschreibrat.ids-mannheim.de/download/regeln2006.pdf
Words: http://rechtschreibrat.ids-mannheim.de/download/woerterverzeichnis2006.pdf

Page 15 lists the official German letters:
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü ß
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü

I also must stress that no one should use the term ligature as something intrinsically different than normal letters of the alphabet. This misinterpretation must be based on the fact that we usually just think of the typical f-ligatures.
But “ligature” just refers to a formal connection of some sort:
From Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin ligātura < Latin ligātus, past participle of ligāre (“to tie, bind”). http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ligature

A ligature can serve a typographic function (fi, fl, ...), a decorative function (ct, ...) or it can be an official letter of the alphabet like for example w, œ, æ, … and ß.

David Berlow's picture
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Adam: "ẞ should look like an uppercase form of ß"
If we all agree on that, then what's the 3/4 of a lowercase 's' doing there?

Hrant: "...how could the corner there be affecting the overt visibility of the [second] “s”?"
By being there?

Cheers!

Chris Lozos's picture
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"...can you tell us what the shape of the uppercase eszett is that you can most easily read as an uppercase eszett."

Nick, that is exactly the problem. Since there never has been one, we don't know what it is--that is what everyone is trying to define or; we are working in the dark until we invent the light.

By having many people putting out attempts and then having German speakers give their comments, we set up a dialogue which may eventually give us answers. I guess what I am saying is that we are all attempting to make duck calls and then waiting for a real duck to respond :-)

ChrisL

Adam Twardoch's picture
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It seems that most readers of fontblog.de agree that the ẞ form that I proposed at the top of this thread (a ΓƷ ligature, so to say, with a pointed upper-left corner) is superior to the form with the round upper-left corner — which to many still looks like an enlarged lowercase letter.

Also, it might be a good idea to give ẞ the proportions of a "wide" capital letter (M, W) due to its "double" nature.

Regards,
Adam

Tim Ahrens's picture
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David,

have you come up with a better solution than the ones shown here?
If not, I won't accept your criticism.
First, show us your solution and then you can criticise the others.

cagri's picture
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My personal view is that the Γ approach makes it look like an uppercase character (whatever that looks like - it’s very subjective) more so than the long s/inverted U approach. That is not to say that I’ll use the Γ approach if it doesn’t suit the rest of the font. The u/c ß is certainly not going to be a fundamental character which shapes the rest of the chat font.

Tim Ahrens's picture
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Nick,

Don’t the better lower-case “ß” designs follow the principle of camouflaging the “s” component?

Do you mean the beta-shaped ß? I certainly don't like it but I guess that's a matter of taste. There are some very good fonts with the ligature/visible s model. Btw, wasn't this type first proposed by Tschichold?

Chris Lozos's picture
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I must admit that most of the designs Mark posted look like broken B glyphs or R's with a wayward tail. I think as designers, we work on glyphs and have a knowledge of what is the essence of that glyph since we have been seeing it or drawing it all of our lives. The trouble comes when we define a new glyph that as of yet has no agreed upon essence in form, It is simply not in our repertoire yet. I guess we are a few hundred years late to the game :-) Instead of depicting the essence by giving it form, we are defining the essence without knowing the form. It is like a tailor who knows how to fit a suit of an old customer, having done it many times. He may get a call from a brand new customer but gets no details of size or measurements or taste in fabric or color, he only know that he is a different size than all of his other customers. Would our tailor create the perfect fit sight-unseen on the first try?

ChrisL

cagri's picture
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By the way, you’ll find it notable that we (searching for Signa 9) actually testified two medieval examples for the capital long S, one of them Gamma-shaped.

Karsten Luecke's picture
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Hi Ralf, I was addressing Nick Job's post which spoke about logic.
I do not understand what you mean by "this sort of logic". If you design a letter, you need some kind of logic to make sure that the letter can be identified as that. A letter must fit into the context of other letters in terms of particular design style and, more important, fit into the rest of the alphabet in terms of structure (construction) and features -- to make sure a tone [mere shape on a page] can be identified as a token [instantiation] of a type [this or that character]. Beware of people who (want to) make history without knowing it. Look at IPA monsters to see what happens if history -- repertory of signs and marks that already exist -- is left aside: "tool approach" at its best.
Problem with uppercase Eszett is that either one tries to make it visually sound, then it looks like Mark Simonson's or maybe like a lowercase eszett tweaked to look more like an uppercase, or structurally correct, which option is not even available because there is no uppercase long-s.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Pragmatically speaking, I think it's confusing to call something like the ß a ligature.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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Here are some more I've done recently, for Oneleigh and Goodchild.
These will be released soon in updates.
I prefer the "Leipziger" style for old-style (Antiqua) faces.

TG's picture
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There are several features of German typography that it would be more appropriate to include in a digital font, such as caps with lowered umlauts, and ch and ck digraphs.

Maybe. But they wouln't need a Unicode point. OT feature access would be sufficient.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Three observations on German special glyphs:

1) fi, fl, ff, ffl, ffi, and st were grandfathered into Unicode as Alphabetic Presentation Forms, but not fz and tz.

2) German ligatures that aren't: ch and ck.

3) Ä, Ö and Ü — with lowered accents in many mid-20th century Antiqua fonts.

Mark Simonson's picture
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That pointy part at the upper right of the Leipzig variant just looks weird to me. I can't think of any other letter that's made using a pinched vertex like that.

In spite of that, yours are looking pretty convincing, Nick. How would it look in something really bold or geometric like Soft Machine? :-0

Simon Daniels's picture
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>I believe that it should be an exciting task for type designers now to come up with a new form.

Absolutely! Without exception every time a bunch of crackpots come up with a new character, that four or five academics and their dog might use once in a blue moon, there’s dancing in the streets!

Nick Shinn's picture
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feature case {
sub S S by uni1E9E;
} case;

Wouldn't that work?

(John: ...any software performing case mapping between the new uppercase ß and the lowercase ß characters must do so at a level independent of the Unicode character properties. This is quite possible, and if the uppercase ß character starts to become widely used I think we can expect to see it handled in such ways.)

John Hudson's picture
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Well, if they serve a croissant with a sausage in it...

Hardly necessary to establish a Germanic flavour, given the croissant's Austrian origins. They were first baked in Vienna to celebrate the defeat of the besieging Ottoman army in 1683. They are crescent shaped as an insult to the Muslim invaders: 'We eat Turks for breakfast'.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Florian, that's wonderful to hear.
Human needs should trump modernist bureaucrats all the time!

> part of the reason why the ß did not previously exist as a capital letter.

So Germans never set all-caps? :-)

> This sort of logic, that is based on a character’s history or
> the history of parts of the letters doesn’t lead anywhere.

Heartily agreed.

> you need some kind of logic to make sure
> that the letter can be identified as that.

Yes, but historical forms are circumstantial. What matters is what's in use (and what should be in use). Historical fidelity is generally promoted by people who simply enjoy history; but users don't need their enjoyment.

> Beware of people who (want to) make history without knowing it.

I would say that ignorance of history isn't the problem there.
The problem is simply poor craft (which does include observation however).

History leads us to where we are, but it's never really with us.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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You're right about the pinched vertex being unusual.
I'm afraid I didn't rationalize it too much!
The Leipzig variant would be a challenge in something really bold or geometric, but for me it just seems appropriate for the old style, and I'll probably go with the Dresdner variant for Softmachine.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Do you mean the beta-shaped ß?

Not necessarily. Just look at the Garamond ß in the first post of this thread.
The shape of the curved side of the ß has an integrity of form, it is a complete "line of beauty" in its own right, with a central angle which has a perpendicular quality that is part of the curve shape, not merely the joint between the "f" and "s" components.

Dan Reynolds's picture
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Thank you, Si. That was wonderful! I don't know how I could enjoy Typophile without you :-)

Nick Job's picture
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>>”...can you tell us what the shape of the uppercase eszett is that you can most easily read as an uppercase eszett.”

>>Nick, that is exactly the problem.

Chris, love the duck call illustration but hang on. The very fact that Szabolcs has said, "pretty much not identifyable as a capital version of ß" implies that he has an actual identifyable capital ß in mind (granted, it maybe only be a capitalised lowercase ß) with which to measure the 'not' against. If something is not x, it implies the existence of a positive, very real x, otherwise the statement is a nonsense. Now, I'm certainly not implying Szabolcs's statement is nonsense. All I'm trying to find out is what his identifyable capital ß looks like. If his answer is "more like a lowercase ß" then I think maybe a little more conservatism may be needed, for a good while at least, because this character is unavoidably bound/doomed to look like its lowercase counterpart.

>We are working in the dark until we invent the light.

Nah, there's plenty of lights here, in this thread alone. But some seem determined to switch the lights off and work in the dark. I think it was Frank Pick (London Transport) who said, "Good design is intelligence made visible." Is it in any way intelligent to try and invent a new character and expect it to be in any way legible from the outset?

Has anyone done a comprehensive analysis of what exists in German print/writing? Is there somewhere we can go to see what's out there? Next, are the existing versions of the glyph what people are measuring recognition/legibility/readability by? If not, then I would ask how are they measuring?* Again, a measure of anything necessarily requires an absolute against which to measure.

*My fear again is that the plumbline is the lowercase ß which again dooms this character to looking like its lowercase ancestor in its various guises (leipziger/dresdner/whatever). OK it's 'safe', but it's also bound to be very legible/readable. Nice try, anyone who's going for anything different - but it'll never actually work.

Nick Shinn's picture
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I think I'll go with number 2.
Number 1 is a bit dull. I mean, if you're going to have a new glyph available, why not get into the spirit of the thing?
Bur not too much, 3 & 4 with the spur are a bit flashy in this modern style. 5 & 6 are too odd -- foundries should try to stick to the pointy-ear Unicode model, because it has been thought out, and some consistency will help get the idea accepted. Or else why bother?
But perhaps such conformity isn't right, and now is the time for experimentation?

David Berlow's picture
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Ah yes, the old days when one could bake-n-eat the enemies of Jesus to the sound of the Lord's prayer. Make that a Vienna Sausage and Hrant'll take two — or maybe not. Me, I just think of it as a piece of bread with the butter built in.

"[Rue Montmartre, Paris]" From the looks of it, in this context, the sign says "Croissant", and assuming Paris is still in France and the French still speak French, (I didn't miss another Franco-German war Monday and Tuesday, did I?), then this sign can stay, thanks.

But more than that...I pine for the days when people knew how to make new letters: The migration of a lowercase to uppercase form is wrong in this proposal, isn't it? The migration from a long lowercase s, (invented for the lazy and rushed to improve the appearance of a difficult s to scratch), to an Uppercase F, is wrong isn't it? Following "historical precedent" from gravestones, sporadic bits of metal and folks with no apparent historical expertise or typographic experience is wrong in this letter, isn't it?

Giving righties something sinuous and sexy to draw "from their side", making a letter that looks something remotely like the sound, and following an historically correct path to a new and true uppercase letter — that cannot possibly succeed these days, I know. But making sense never goes out of style does it?

Cheers!

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Thanks, Freiberger. I think which, maybe, Penabico will be released to public in few days, althought I will work for many months making updates, into the final project to be complete. I am attaching here a new design to the Germandbls uppercase, following the advice from Ralf (thanks, Ralf). I know which the shapes are not good yet, but, the overall shape is running to the Ralph/Nick Shinn concept, what you think?

Brian Jongseong Park's picture
Joined: 15 Mar 2006 - 12:53pm
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Not just a character but an entire alphabet.

Actually, despite the popular Korean belief that King Sejong appointed his team of scholar-officials with the creation of hangul (the Korean alphabet), modern scholars agree that it was a personal project of the king himself. So hangul was not conceived by a mass committee.

As for characters that were designed in a mass-committee manner... I have no idea, but maybe phonetic symbols? Characters for some African orthographies?

Andreas Stötzner's picture
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There are some new fonts around boasting with the new capital. Also offers for font-completion and a keyboard layout for German which enables you to simply type the capital Eszett – a suitable font assumed. See
http://this page for further information.
A:S

Claudio Piccinini's picture
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I think as designers, we work on glyphs and have a knowledge of what is the essence of that glyph […]
I think Chris is entirely right. I think you should get the essence of a letterform. Since the SS is a "S-related" or "S-sound" letter, I couldn't treat it as an "abstract" form to invent.
Here's my form for Neoritmo. The UC [ß] is the same height of the [H], which has an ascending part. The interruption of the [ß]s is a choice, and the form can be seen continuous. What I think is that we may compensate for its feeling of "lowercaseness" by making the upper left corner a "supercurve" (more angular), and thus neither rounded nor angled.

Jason Pagura's picture
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Plenty of other uppercase letters look like enlarged lowercase counterparts, such as C, O, S, V, W, X, Z and others depending on the style. Why should this be taboo with regard to an uppercase longs_s or longs_z ligature? Is it because of insisting that the uc long S be based on the Gamma rather than something more S-like, such as the integral symbol?

Mark Simonson's picture
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Here's how I would do it, using for my examples Garamond Premiere Pro, Bodoni Bold BT and Futura Book BT:

My design decisions are based on the following thoughts:

- I think the cap ß should take its cues from the lowercase ß as much as possible -- they should look like they are related stylistically, since they are part of the same typeface, and people are already familiar with the lowercase form.

- I don't think the ligated (Tschichold) form can be translated to an uppercase form, as much as I like it in the lowercase form. It's too complex and relies on the space above the s, which caps don't have. This leaves the "B" form.

- However, I tried to get a hint of the ligated form in the Garamond example.

- In the lowercase it helps that the ß doesn't look like any other lowercase letters. But, as a capital, I don't think the "B"-ness of the ß can be avoided by introducing novel forms to its construction. My solution, to help distinguish the cap ß from the cap B, is to open up the interior space and make it a bit wider

- The tail on the bottom right takes a form similar to the lowercase form, but in scale with the other capitals. The terminal on the cap J usually works.

- I used a corner shape in the upper left because it makes it look more like a cap and to help distinguish it from the beta.

- Some of the other proposed designs I think look too busy, novel or exotic, calling attention to themselves and failing to harmonize well with the other letters. I also think a lot of them work for some faces better than others. I hope to overcome this by sticking with elements of letters and forms that are already present in the typeface and keeping the general form simple and straightforward.

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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P.S. Nick, why did you use for the UC of Oneleigh Roman the "Leipzig" form, while the LC had the "Dresden" one?

Nina Stössinger's picture
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So Germans never set all-caps? :-)
Well that seems to be exactly the thing they only just realized. :)
Seriously, from what I've been told by Mr Stötzner as my former typography teacher-cum-editor, (and I do realize I'm probably stating the very obvious here,) that was, for a long time, the official reason why this character had no raison d'être: "We don't need a capital letter if there are no words that begin with it." The fact that such a thing as an all-caps setting exists (and has given way to 'creative' uses of the lowercase ß, as well as even more creative designs of uppercase variants by laymen and also by artists, see e.g. numerous examples from the field of epigraphy), has long been ignored by official opinion.
I cannot recommend SIGNA 9 highly enough for people interested in the history, morphology and design scope of this letter.

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With all these new double-S ligatures, witty as they are, we should not forget that this new letter should not look like a double-S. That's the whole point of having a sharp S: so it doesn't look like a double consonant.

In German, like in most languages, double consonants make the preceding vowel short, and this is where the ß comes into play: so that, for example, the o in "großes" does not "look short" as it would in "grosses". Thanks to the reformed orthography this principle is quite clear now.

So, if we see the need for a sharp S then that's because words like "GROSSES" somehow "look wrong" (even though ortho-typographically correct). If the words with the new sharp S still look like "GROSSES" because the sharp S looks like SS then there's not much gained and it's not better than something that looks like "GROBES".

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> he has an actual identifyable capital ß in ...
> with which to measure the ’not’ against

I hearily agree with this "nothing exists without its opposite" stance. The thing is, this nebulous idea of a shape isn't necessarily easy to move from the depths of the mind to the consciousness! This being required to actually make the glyph.

> this character is unavoidably bound/doomed
> to look like its lowercase counterpart.

This is indeed a very good point to keep in mind. But frankly this answers the concern: "Is it in any way intelligent to try and invent a new character and expect it to be in any way legible from the outset?"

> some seem determined to switch the lights off and work in the dark.

While others want to see the way forward
by looking into a rear-view mirror? :-)

> a measure of anything necessarily requires
> an absolute against which to measure.

But -as above- that absolute need not be fully grasped. In this case the "absolute" is simply the degree to which a reader can read the thing!

> My fear again is that the plumbline is the lowercase ß which
> again dooms this character to looking like its lowercase ancestor

Why fear? This is something to leverage. On one side the glyph should have features that pull it towards its lc "recognition anchor", while on the other side the glyph should have features (like UC proportions, as well as a certain monumentalism) that pull it away from lc set.

hhp

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More than just a pumped up B: Germany celebrates recognition of the letter ß

It looks like ISO has finally ruled on the Eszett, but that article in the Guardian doesn't really say anything about the uppercase form. Does anyone know if a preferred approach was part of ISO's decision?

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That article is soooooo superficial, conflating issues of ß and its capital version.

--Szabolcs