Why so few small cap dollar sign designs

plainclothes's picture

Scouring the available options (this time limited to web font availability), I am surprised at the number of typefaces that omit a small cap variant of the dollar sign. This omission is particularly annoying as I'm trying to use all small caps in a promotional environment.

Among the type design community, does this seem like an important glyph or is my need obscure? I'd be interested to hear perspectives on this exceedingly small concern. Any favorites that do have it? Legato is a favorite of mine that doesn't actually have it but is sized to work in either case.

riccard0's picture

I suppose it relates to the fact that very few typefaces have small-caps figures.

William Berkson's picture

Williams Caslon Text has small caps figures, and dollar sign. I think that Riccardo is right about the absence going with no small caps figures. I found them useful in a book for discrete citations of sources in parentheses (which were also small caps).

charles ellertson's picture

Not only small-cap dollar signs -- but ones for old-style figures, too. In the Type 1 days, Monotype, anyway, had a number of old-style monetary symbols.When they're not there (and the EULA allows), we make them up.

Nick Shinn's picture

I’ve put them in these types: Bodoni Egyptian Pro, Figgins Sans, Oneleigh Pro, Pratt Pro, Parity, Paradigm Pro, Scotch Modern.

My practice is to have the Small Caps feature effect only lower case letters, and have All Small Caps also turn capitals and figures (whether old style or lining) and monetary symbols into small-cap-height lining glyphs.

However, most browsers do not yet support OT features.

Therefore you need to have a separate Small Caps web font, and the figure style for that would be oldstyle—SC+OSF—with default cap-lining monetary symbols. I’m afraid I don’t see the point of producing those extra fonts, as I’d rather wait for browsers to support OT features, which seems to be the trajectory the industry is taking.

So, to get what you want now, you’d need a third “All Small Caps, Small Figures & Small Monetary Symbols” font, with lining small-cap-height figures and monetary symbols.

A small-cap-lining dollar with old style figures is wrong.

jcrippen's picture

You can get away with lining $ and old style numerals in an emergency if the value starts with a 6 or an 8: $87.99, $6.2 million. But with others it looks weird: $92.40, $3.2 million. If you hate yourself you can use the Unicode small cap s character (ᴜ+ᴀ731) and the combining short solidus overlay (ᴜ+0337) as a crude facsimile of a small cap dollar – ꜱ̷ – but this is only suitable for typographic masochists.

charles ellertson's picture

With InDesign:

It is a little odd, but you can use the standard monetary signs and "shift the baseline down" with everything but a following 6 or 8. If you look at the older Monotype Type 1 *sterling* character, that's essentially what they did.

When I make them up for os figs in a font editing program, I usually make them a little smaller, but also lower them a little. Scaling only, either in InDesign or an editing program, doesn't work too well, as the weight becomes too thin. You could maybe scale them to 95% vertical without a weight change. If you scale then in InDesign, you'll lose any kerning...

kentlew's picture

FWIW — in the Whitman fonts, even though there are no small-cap figures, I did draw small-cap currencies for the SmallCapOsF styles.

In the [much-delayed] process of updating the fonts to full-featured OpenType, I haven’t yet decided whether or not to draw small-cap figures. But if not, I still intend to keep the SC currencies and work them into the features.

hrant's picture

> A small-cap-lining dollar with old style figures is wrong.

But only with a lowercase "w". Because it still looks
better than the huge one (as Whitman demonstrates).

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

…as Whitman demonstrates…

As Rogers demonstrates:

riccard0's picture

As Rogers demonstrates

Are you advocating the use of italic currency symbols in roman settings?

Nick Shinn's picture

That’s not the issue, but anyway, those aren’t italic. Is the “5” is italic, just because it leans?
The bars are slanted to fit them both in, and the fact that the top of the “S” part of the dollar is smaller than the bottom part contributes to the slant.

What I hoped would happen, when people survey this ad, is that they would imagine a “small cap” (approx. x-height) dollar sign in this layout, and realize how pitiful it would look.

This is after all the kind of historicist layout that epitomizes the typographic ethos of small caps and alternate figures, and the play that typographers can make with these devices.

hrant's picture

Dunno, in a classy operation the dollar sign shouldn't jump out.
Rogers didn't do infomercials.

hhp

riccard0's picture

To me it epitomises the limitations of typographic devices of the time too. Of course $ isn’t italic (I was joking), because it’s a generic sort, made to adapt to any setting. And look at those sub-x-height small caps.
Limitations and tradition are powerful design devices, the roots of it, I dare say, but we’re talking about a tool (a Opentype font) whose aim isn’t to reproduce historical artefacts, but to satisfy modern sensibilities and paradigms.

kentlew's picture

Actually, Riccardo, I’m pretty sure that the $ in this case was not a generic sort.

Many foundries of the period supplied $ sorts with the font. And, although I haven’t identified which specific Caslon Rogers used in this particular case, many Caslons of the time are shown in the specimen books with the $ character cut in precisely this distinctive fashion.

plainclothes's picture

Thanks for the thoughtful responses everyone. I think we're all in agreement here, aside from minor discrepancies, that currency symbols are important contributors to the completeness of the typeface. I can't wait until browsers catch up with the extraordinary potential of OT. For the time being, I will continue to spec more stringent typographic rules for print than I'm able in the browser.

My practice is to have the Small Caps feature effect only lower case letters, and have All Small Caps also turn capitals and figures (whether old style or lining) and monetary symbols into small-cap-height lining glyphs.

I completely agree, Nick. A complete set of figures should include lining, text, and small cap (all in tab and proportional). The currency sorts should be drawn to coordinate with those features.

Whitman and Williams Caslon are favorites of mine. Unfortunately, not appropriate for this client. Someday I'll find the right project ;)

riccard0's picture

the $ in this case was not a generic sort […] many Caslons of the time are shown in the specimen books with the $ character cut in precisely this distinctive fashion

I stand corrected, then!
By the way, I like the quirkiness of it :-)
(I wonder if the design is related to the one of ¢)

William Berkson's picture

Rogers had is own version Caslon that was done specially, but I forget the details.

Nick Shinn's picture

I would guess that layout isn’t really by Rogers.
The ad is from The Colophon, Summer 1935, printed by Pynson Printers.
Here’s another, with that same dollar symbol teamed up with lining Garamond figures, and masquerading as a superior.
Promiscuous after all.

These ads are only 13 picas wide.

kentlew's picture

Well, that’s interesting. The catalog specimen for ATF Garamond shows a dollar sign of a slightly different design.

And I checked the Typographic Accessories section and they didn’t offer $ as separate accessories (not in 1923, anyway). Always part of a font.

My guess is the Pynson compositor pulled this in from the Caslon case. Presumably on purpose. (I wonder if these ever got seriously pied?)

Té Rowan's picture

Ah'ma gunna guess that it was the only buck the setter could squeeze in.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

It is not very fancy, but if a family has a separate small cap font(s), there is space available naturally for having default sm. cp. figures *and* sm. cp. monetaria as well. Without any extra programming needed.
The amount of ‘switching labour’ demanded from the user is roughly the same as with an OT font.

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