Uppercase germandbls is coming to Unicode

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Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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Has anyone done a comprehensive analysis of what exists in German print/writing? Next, are the existing versions of the glyph what people are measuring recognition/legibility/readability by?

Sorry to butt in just once more (I do feel kind of underqualified, so let me know if I'm just stating the obvious).

Your question, Nick, is exactly why I recommended Stötzner's publication on the capital Eszett (SIGNA 9). He shows a pretty impressive collection of uppercase Eszetts in use, and yes, there exists an idea even among laymen totally unaware of this whole discussion of what it could/should look like; and some of them (restaurant and shop owners, epigraphers, letter writers) have made up forms that I would say are pretty much unanimously readable. Which is why I posed that question about factoring in the user perspective as well, which indeed already exists.

If there is any interest in this, I can e-mail Mr. Stötzner and ask him if I could scan a couple of relevant images and put them online here (if he's not reading this anyway).

Craig Eliason's picture
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Why not take "sharp S" literally?

I suspect this would be readable some time before 2058.

Eben Sorkin's picture
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Re the ck & ch digraphs; if they really believe in OT then they could leave it to scripting. But maybe it's a backwards/trans system compatibility thing.

I am going to start a new thread regarding the do's & don'ts of the ck & ch. I don't understand them nearly well enough.

John Hudson's picture
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Paulo, can we see this in some kind of context? It isn't possible to judge these shapes without seeing them next to other letters to compare proportions and fit.

I suggest going back through this discussion and find some sample German words involving the sharp-s to set in all caps.

Karsten Luecke's picture
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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.

So, let's forget about design schools and what they teach about typography and let secretaries' and hobbyists' circumstantial output define what typography is?

The problem is simply poor craft (which does include observation however).

"Poor craft" or "pure craft"?
So my last two posts were not clear. An uppercase Eszett is self-contradiction -- structurally. Which can be seen in design attempts so far. "Poor craft" thus reflects not participating designers' incompetence but the more fundamental structural problem. ("Problem with uppercase Eszett is ..." in my last post, and comparison of Tim's and Mr Simonson's attempts in yesterday's post.)
In case you meant "pure craft" -- that would be a somewhat superficial conception of design, from my point of view. If you don't have a proper understanding of what you are supposed to design, what are you designing then?

Dan Rhatigan's picture
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Exactly. It didn't really say much of anything useful, Whig is why I was hoping someone else
may have dredged up any more info.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Nick, I don't see this character as a problem, but an opportunity created by Unicode and OpenType.
Unicode and OpenType, among other things, are part of present-day internationalism, and the field of font design and production are wide open to foundries worldwide.

If foreign type-designers are heavy-handed, it's up to indigenous typographers to ignore their typefaces.
Trans-national corporations like Microsoft and Adobe, that are bundling large numbers of fonts globally, have to be more circumspect, because their types will become something of a de facto standard. However, the fact that there is a variety of options available to those who choose and purchase fonts from independent foundries should provide cultural checks and balances, while allowing some "foreign spice" to make things more interesting.

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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If you don’t have a proper understanding of what you are supposed to design, what are you designing then?
Well correct me if I'm wrong, but since the genesis of the lowercase Eszett is still somewhat cloudy, it's not that easy to isolate one historical root & think it through.

Instead of trying to reverse engineer history, couldn't it be another way – maybe a parallel one – to look at those uc ß letters that already exist: in epigraphy, in people's handwriting, in some rare print samples; & then think from what works for 'the user' and how they understand the letter, instead of trying to mimic an imaginary, 'correct' history of a letter that we're actually inventing now? That feels like reverse science fiction.
'Thinking from the user' may be heretical, but why should it be a less legitimate approach? In the end, letters are tools of communication.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I agree that you don't want to derive it from the lc, and you shouldn't let physical writability intrude (especially when you -consciously- exclude 15% of the population). But "virgin decipherability" does have to be ensured; you can just completely make something up. So what about forms that look like a fusing of two caps? As long as the width doesn't explode.

hhp

Chris Lozos's picture
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Your link and this page:
http://www.signographie.de/cms/upload/pdf/SIGNA9_SHARP_S_howto.pdf
in particular goes directly back to a discussion in a different thread on the same subject. I will try to find the older link.
Here it is:
http://typophile.com/node/48746

ChrisL

Karsten Luecke's picture
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judges judge

I am glad that a total of 200+ posts helps hide my two or three silly ones.  :)

Nick Shinn's picture
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If they'd had a competition Craig, you'd have won.

Professional designers often opt for something conservative, so as not to upset the dear reader, when in fact she probably doesn't give a shit about precedent and provenance, and could really get behind something radical.

Jason Pagura's picture
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Me: Are there any words in ANY languages that begin with “ss”? Would these languages benefit from a spelling reform?

Florian: Don’t know of ‘Ss’, but Hungarian has a lot of words starting with ‘Sz’. According to an entry in the Decode Unicode Wiki, some Hungarians like to replace ‘sz’ with ‘ß’ in text messages – because so they can save a character. To me, that doesn’t sound very plausible, in times of T9 dictionaries.

That's just the thing I was looking for. A living language that may well use the new option of a capital letter as an initial in regular text as opposed to a medial in all-caps setting (as it would be used in German). Such a use may be regarded as merely slang for a generation or more, but it could be absorbed into official recognition eventually should it become popular.

Go Hungary!

Chris Lozos's picture
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Here also are some of Ralf Herrmann's Flickr group pages on the subject:
http://flickr.com/groups/386230@N21/
http://flickr.com/photos/ralf_herrmann/3056238954/

ChrisL

Tim Ahrens'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

I disagree. The letters v w x z are reduced versions of the uppercase rather than the other way round. Definitely historically speaking, and also stylistically imho. C O S are neutral in this respect, I would say.

Nick Shinn's picture
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This is the model in the Unicode chart:

***

The Unicode face is Times, and here is a 1956 precedent of the glyph shown in the Unicode proposal, http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/N3227.pdf in Times:

***

Here are some options I'm considering for a Modern treatment.
I don't particularly like the pointy-eared model, it seems counter-intuitive to the chirographic ductus of the antiqua.
The Times precedent (and there are other examples of it in the Unicode proposal) seems more typographically correct.
What do you think, should I follow the Unicode model, or my instinct?

Chris Lozos's picture
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4 basic frameworks crudely drawn.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture
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It looks that there will be some spotty font support for this character in Windows 7: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2009/07/28/9850675.aspx

TG's picture
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i don’t see the proposed uppercase eszett as an improvement over the double S, which seems Germans have not really had a problem with.

I am German and I had problems with it all the time! I can't write the name of my home town in caps. I can't set a book cover in small caps when the name of the author has an Eszett in it. (Meißner and Meissner are different names, so you can't set them both as MEISSNER.)

I don't need it in the case feature at the moment, because the replacement »ß to SS« will not go away for some time. It just needs to be in the font, whenever we need to set a proper name.

Nick,
don't take 1 or 5. They would be read as B. Your test word GROßE (»big«) would then mean »crude« (GROBE).

Ralf

TG's picture
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many of these are hard to distinguish without context: Il1, O0o, rnm, 5S, 2Zz. ... Context helps a lot.

I totally agree to that, but the thing is: B and capital sharp S will always appear in the same context, so we need a clear distinction within the skeleton of the letter. Context can not always help:
"Die große Wurst" (the big sausage).
"Die grobe Wurst" (the coarse sausage).
I wouldn't even mind if different shapes come into use (as with single/double-storey a and g), as long as they cannot be mistaken for a B.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> So, let’s forget about design schools and what they teach
> about typography and let secretaries’ and hobbyists’
> circumstantial output define what typography is?

No way. What I'm saying is that teaching about history is useful only to the extent of understanding the present; the problem is that some people emulate history. To me studying history is like studying a car crash. Also, just because hobbyists and secretaries don't know history doesn't mean they know design.

A great specific example here is the ampersand. It comes from "e" + "t". Whoop-di-doo. When you take that too seriously you end up with a form that causes reading problems for many people*, like in Poppl Laudatio (which I otherwise adore). A well-designed ampersand is based on what people need; what it used to be is just fodder for pedantic discussion.

* I'm talking about text fonts; sometimes, if
rarely, the "e"+"t" form is highly suitable.

> structural problem

Even if I agree that the cap eszet has some sort of structural incompatibility with the rest of the alphabet (which I don't think I do), it's still the responsibility of a good designer to try his best. Frankly though, people tolerate -and even are mostly oblivious to- all kinds of strange things in fonts, like the numerals have totally different stress. Even the UC and lc are really fundamentally different! So even if there is something inherently strange about the cap eszet, in a generation it can be absorbed just fine (like Jason says about script evolution).

hhp

Eben Sorkin's picture
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I think the notan of the middle one is best. My eye travels most easily over it. Maybe with a quieter/smaller ball though so it sparkles a bit less. Not sure.

Mark Simonson's picture
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Here's how I might do it with Trajan:

Craig Eliason's picture
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I thought it was interesting that at the "crit session" at TypeCon, the panel of experts seemed pretty skeptical of the whole idea of the glyph.

Nick Shinn's picture
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why did you use for the UC of Oneleigh Roman the “Leipzig” form, while the LC had the “Dresden” one?

I see what you mean.
I chose the Dresdner form for the LC as I liked the way the top stroke suggested a chirographic break with the bottom, and that quirkyness seemed to suit the face.
I don't think there's a necessity to have overt shape-echoes between the cases, as the UC eszett only appears in all-cap settings.

The main thing is to have the cap Eszett look well in all-cap settings, and the LC ß look good in mixed case.

Adam Twardoch's picture
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Ralf,

not only good examples but also some beautiful shots of them, thanks! :) Do you have them somewhere in high-res? I'd love to use them in a presentation if you don't mind (crediting you of course).

TG's picture
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@paulow

To me as a German reader, I still see them as Bs.
It doesn't matter, whether your real B look different in this typeface. Reading is too automatic to make such comparisons "on the fly".

But Nick Shinn has already solved it outstandingly:

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Nick, what I'm describing is merely an observation tool - it can only help a
designer make a decision; it cannot replace the designer's overall judgment.

Of the three factors I can discern, namely stylistic fit, non-ligatureness and non-"B"-ness, only the last can be addressed by the sort of informal field study I describe. And all such a field study could do is give the designers a feeling for how a glyph is being read. That still leaves the bulk of decision-making to the designer's judgment.

So for example you might only give up on a very "B"-like cap eszet for Avant Garde if the study results are totally disastrous.

> I don’t understand what you mean. Can you explain that?

I was hoping my "apposite" example clarified things. But let me try this: you choose a pair of German words where one has a "B" in one spot while the other has an eszet in the same spot (ideally with both words having comparable frequency; or you could weight the results based on the relative frequencies). You set them in all-caps and flash them for very short periods in front of readers, then ask them to type the word. Refinements might involve: using different durations, maybe between 1/10 and 1/4 of a second; using words that start with "B"/cap-eszet and setting the rest in lc; and putting the words in the parafovea (by asking the reader to focus on a point that's some distance* to the left of the flashed word).

* To be determined by factoring in screen
resolution and viewing distance; tricky.

> Germans were not that bothered about solving it

Well, most Germans don't design fonts. :-)
In fact many Germans want[ed] to dump the lc eszet! For shame.

> ... as long as the two characters cannot be mistaken in context

1) Sometimes they could. But the fewer words that might have this problem, the lesser the problem, and the less it makes sense to sweat it, I agree.
2) This is a new character. Changing an established character is a whole other animal!

> modern scholars agree that it was a personal project of the king himself.

Really? I didn't know that. In a way, that's even more impressive (or maybe my monarchist tendencies are at play :-).

It's worth noting here that many people (including myself) consider Hangul to be by far the most powerful and elegant writing system. To me it makes English look like the village idiot.

> characters that were designed in a mass-committee manner

A mass, anonymous committee:
http://www.imarlin.com/sandbox/smaller/
:-)

hhp

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Note that the Unicode example gylphs are just informative, gylphs in fonts actually might look considerably different.

1½–2 years ago I posted in a german type forum a shape I personally liked (and for fonts where the Uppercas J has a descender, it's the one I'd ever use in my types; personal preference though):

I dislike the left part's "turned U" shape in most other versions and prefer the ſ~f — Γ~F analogy. Clearly preferring the З form of Z (mostly used in Fraktur, but sometimes found in Antiqua as well).

Of the four blue forms I prefer the third.

I'm just trying to give inspiration, of course, (this is clearly only one option of many), and am hoping that you find it useful or interesting at least. The nicety of type design is, that you can find so many different solutions for a given problem.

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Nick,
now I see what you mean. The ß from Garamond is a real beauty – maybe because it is the golden mean between the "beta" and the "ligature" models?

Mark,
interesting comments. Before I read them I thought, is he trying to make the UC ß as similar to the B as possible? But maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it. After all, we distinguish many letters by relatively small differences.
That letter remains a difficult thing to design and I have the feeling we might never find really convincing solutions.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Oh, Nick, you move me so! (Not.)

Don't use the supposed psychic ability of readers to figure out
what letter an undecipherable shape is as an excuse to make Art.

hhp

Karsten Luecke's picture
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R.H. -- But setting a proper name right doesn't matter?

Again, there are well-established rules for eszett case-mapping. If you do not know or like these rules, it is your problem.

R.H. -- I don't need it in the case feature at the moment, because the replacement "ß to SS" will not go away for some time.

Not sure if this was before you started studying design, but maybe you remember that it took some time until InDesign finally supported the current orthographically correct case-mapping from eszett to SS. I would not like to miss that.

John Hudson's picture
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Eben, yes, I agree about the diagonal. I think my quick Trajan test is too loose.

Jason Pagura's picture
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Here is how I've handled this character in Agamemnon, Californian Grotesque, Palormak, and Effluent:

These are all works in progress and subject to change. I've tried a variety of the suggested solutions and these seem to work best within their own context, being neither to lower-casey nor B -like, and certainly unmistakable for their lower-case counterparts.

I keep forgetting or swapping in my mind what distinguishes the Leipzig from the Dresden form, and I'm not sure how either applies to my designs, so I'll refrain from using those words for now. I'm sure there is room for improvement.

TG's picture
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Again, there are well-established rules for eszett case-mapping.

So what? Something can be »well-established« and still be wrong.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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I'm realizing that there might be another avenue worth exploring. It might be a dead end, but it might also be wonderful. Maybe the cap eszet doesn't need to look anything like the lc eszet. So how would it be decipherable? By simply evoking two "S"es. I admit this goes against the preference for non-ligatureness, but it might still be the key.

Might a carefully designed Section even fit the bill?
ZERSTO§EN

hhp

Claudio Piccinini's picture
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Drawing, you know, is the first refuge of the confused.
@David: why?

Beware of people who (want to) make history without knowing it.
[…]If you don’t have a proper understanding of what you are supposed to design, what are you designing then?

@Karsten: most important remarks. Altaira is also right: see historical precedents, if the form has in some cases been written in "more uppercase" form (there is no fixed distinction about the two, save the one matured in typographic tradition).

A great specific example here is the ampersand. It comes from “e” + “t”. Whoop-di-doo. When you take that too seriously you end up with a form that causes reading problems for many people*, like in Poppl Laudatio (which I otherwise adore). A well-designed ampersand is based on what people need; what it used to be is just fodder for pedantic discussion.
@Hrant: Downright pretentious, because the "and-per-se-and" is, and actually remains an "et".
I would have had problems to understand its being an [e] just *before* someone told me it was an "et", which – as an Italian – comes as a perfect logical succession, or better as the same thing.
It has happened some people asked me to change Rotis' "Et" into a more common [&] form, but that's because people in Italy still think of the [&] solely as a "commercial e" (in Italian it's called "e commerciale"), and they do not know it's an "et", out of ignorance.

Read both these entries:
http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampersand (Italian)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampersand#Usage (English-International)

As much as Wikipedia is nonsense, these entries show how the evolution happens by a combination of planning and usage, despite all the thinking it may be done before.
The world may have become "anglocentric" (in terms of shared tongue), but – as you see – this happens out of necessity, otherwise we wouldn't be allowed to be here to talk together in a shared experience…

Now, my big question (since it is still not clear to me): is the [ß] a simple double s? Of course not, since it's a "sharp" z-sound. So, why people keep using it as a substitute for "ss"?
Besides, how an "ss" ligature should be drawn?
And [AE] or [OE]? They are not ligatures, they address sounds, right?

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Freiberger, concerning the Ezh-like form, like you advice me, I did make these variations. But, I pretend add to the font all the six versions (three earlyers plus these ones) I think

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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> Plenty of other uppercase letters look like enlarged lowercase counterparts

A sad reality that we should not amplify.

hhp

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ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ pretty clearly expresses itself as dominated by second-side terminal logic. So, when something is expected to be, by the sound unvoiced though it may be in a reader's mind, first-sided terminal logically, I think it is pretty important that it is, just to keep der dear reader downset. That a barless F looks more like an uppercase character than a J, is interesting, and may be appropriate in some places, but maybe just easiest way to make something look uppercase, and is not specific enough. Most who have experimented here have gravitated to serif designs, the ones with little feet things attached which makes it blend in all nice, but... I think in humanist sans, and of the sans experiments here, I think few approach success. So, relying on the stored biological memory of the original, pre-laziness lowercase form, and the space-saving intent of its creators, I go that way — clearly not a B, Beta, F3 ligature, SS, with no confusion at the waist and no gigantic open counter and with first-sided terminal logic.

Cheers!

Chris Lozos's picture
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Those look good to me except the last one (the didone). The Greek Gamma plus s just looks like a strange creature or an old Hangman game?

ChrisL

Jason Pagura's picture
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I agree that one on Effluent (the didone) looks pretty odd, but the other styles weren't working at all on that one. It is the same structure Tim Ahrens used for his, though.

Paulo W's picture
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Thanks, Ralf, very clear the distinction between the shapes. I think now I understand.

David Berlow's picture
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"David, perfect for Valentine’s."
Oh, but you have not seen the serif design, that's for lovers of type.

For the others, there's always the 100% imagination-free proposal. :)

Brian Jongseong Park's picture
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I apologize in advance for going seriously off topic.

Are there any words in ANY languages that begin with “ss”? Would these languages benefit from a spelling reform to replace that digraph with eszett (and by extension Eszett)?

You might have heard of Korean automobile manufacturer Ssangyong Motors. Korean distinguishes between two versions of s: a normal s and a ‘tense’ s. The s sounds in most other languages, including English, are actually closer to the Korean ‘tense’ s.

In hangul (the Korean alphabet), the former is written ㅅ and the latter written ㅆ, which comes from doubling the symbol for the normal s. The same logic is applied to form the symbols for all the tense consonants: ㄲ from ㄱ, ㄸ from ㄷ, ㅃ from ㅂ, ㅉ from ㅈ. Most romanization schemes represent ㅅ as s and ㅆ as ss in analogy with the consonant doubling in hangul. Because ㅆ can come in the beginning of a word in Korean, you can see romanized spellings that begin with Ss as in Ssangyong.

You also see romanized spellings that begin with Kk, Pp, and Tt, and in some romanization schemes, Jj. Other doubled letters such as ll, mm, and nn are found only in the middle of words. There is no reason to single out the digraph ss to be replaced with a symbol like the eszett.

According to Wikipedia, Prussian Lithuanians seem to have used ß to represent the sound written š in standard modern Lithuanian orthography. For example, they wrote Baltßus for Balčius ( represents the sound č = ). However, the Prussian Lithuanian name corresponding to Lithuanian Šameitatis/Šameitaitis is Szameitat, so it seems they avoided ß word-initially and replaced it with sz. The Prussian Lithuanian community disappeared after World War II, though.

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isn’t it a bit like telling a French, Spanish, Catalan person etc, what their cedillas should look like, when they were the ones who invented it/them?

No, because were designing a completely new character here, not changing an existing one. Anyone in the world can understand the design problems and solve them. As for me, I really appreciate the ideas in this thread.

The introduction of complete new alphabets is a different thing, because everyone was forced to learn a completely new system. But here we're trying to sneak in a new character in a set of characters everyone is used to. This is not easy. It must have a distinct design but still feel like it was always there and must be easily recognized as a cap Eszett.

Arranging legibility test with system fonts like Georgia would be a nice way to check for the B problem. Speaking of Georgia: Maybe we should also try to solve this the Carter-way: The character must also work in a small copy text like this one here on Typophile. Maybe it would be a good idea to start with simple pixel grid, in which it would be easy to see if the skeleton is different enough from B and R.

Karsten Luecke's picture
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As a summary:

(1)  There is a new Unicode codepoint for uppercase eszett.
(2)  There are orthographic rules for case mapping. And it is not the Uncode Consortium's business to change these. This means, the eszett-to-SS case mapping is left untouched, as pointed out explicitly in the UC's information. What is allowed is mapping uppercase-eszett to lowercase-eszett.
(3)  If anyone plans to add this letter to fonts, the only questions left are:
What does it look like? Up to the designer.
How to name it? Maybe 'uni1E9E'.
How to deal with it in features? Add "sub uni1E9E by germandbls.sc;"* in 'c2sc' to address the uppercase-to-lowercase mapping mentioned in (2). No coverage in other features though, following current best practice to not substitute encoded glyphs with encoded glyphs.

This doesn't have much to do with opinion but with currently valid orthography and best practices as regards font production.

So my question is, what is the point you are trying to make? Of course you can spell and case as you like, but the result would be your "private Sprache", nothing that should concern anyone else.

Sorry for repeating things already said in previous posts.

* Or whatever your smallcaps suffix is. If you use two sets of smallcaps (one mapping from lowercase, the other from uppercase) then it would be something like "sub uni1E9E by uni1E9E.c2sc;".

[Edited. Originally located between Ralf Herrmann 9.Apr.2008 3.33am and dezcom 9.Apr.2008 8.11am.
Corrected post and added a note. Hell, thanks Nick! Another typo ...]

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Putting a bit more work into it, I came up with a very different solution for my didone Effluent (I'd really appreciate another name suggestion--I'm tapped out). The new one follows a configuration similar to what I used for Agamemnon, with the Gamma_s lig type from before shown for comparison. The new one is a bit more B-like, but not so much as to cause confuddlement.

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Dez! http://www.signographie.de/cms/upload/pdf/SIGNA9_SHARP_S_howto.pdf
...is so close, I just cannot believe the author passes by the open door, JS to jump from the open window, SJ. :)

Cheers!

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I think this might have been discussed before, but what about giving it a descender?* That might pull it nicely away from the "B", but hopefully not too close to looking like a lc (which would be another possible field test). The descender could either be at the left stem or the right curl.

* Except in fonts where both the "J" and "Q" don't descend I guess.
A relevant question here: are "J" and "Q" very low frequency in German?

hhp