Uppercase germandbls is coming to Unicode

twardoch's picture

Andreas Stötzner and the German DIN committee submitted a proposal to the ISO 10646 working group that uppercase ß (germandbls, eszett, sharp s) should be added to Unicode/ISO 10646.

U+1E9E is the envisioned codepoint.

The proposal can be viewed at:
http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/N3227.pdf

It is important to note that according to the proposal, even after adding this character to Unicode, the standard uppercase mapping for "ß" will remain "SS". This encoding effort is not about changing existing application or even spelling rules -- it is simply an effort to encode a character to be used in an "alternate" spelling which some people use (and currently have problems with properly encoding the text). It is an observed fact that "uppercase ß" exists, even if the official rules don't envision it.

I believe it is an interesting effort, and it would be reasonable to discuss what the best possible shape for the new character would be.

Some links in German:

http://www.signographie.de/cms/signa_9.htm (published by Andreas Stötzner, I recommend reviewing all the PDFs published there.)

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Versal-Eszett

Some German type designers posted some of their design proposals for an uppercase ß at:
http://www.typeforum.de/modules.php?op=modload&name=XForum&file=viewthre...

I find many of these design proposals structurally flawed -- they don’t look like uppercase letters. They look like lowercase letters enlarged to match uppercase. The graphical structure of the Roman uppercase is very different from lowercase. If one were to invent a new uppercase letter, it would have to stylistically match the Roman uppercase. If Unicode really decides to encode uppercase ß, type designers should imagine what the uppercase ß would have looked from the very beginning, rather than trying to work out of the existing lowercase ß form.

Note that the history of "ß" is somewhat surprising. The letter developed in a two-wise way: as a ligation of long s and round ("normal") s, and as a ligation of long s and z. The German language adopted unified spelling rules only in 1901. Before that, both in the middle ages and in the humanist period, German spelling differed much. For example, "Thor" and "Tor" were equal variants of spelling the word meaning "gate".

Sharp s was denoted by different writers differently (as ſs or ſz, which looked like ſʒ). The graphical shape of the ß ligature developed independently in these two ways.

This dichotomy still shows itself in a small minority practice of uppercasing ß as "SZ" rather than "SS". Incidentally, this practice is understandable for most German readers (though not actively practiced), i.e. "GROSZSTADT" or "MASZGEBLICH" is understandable as the uppercasing of Großstadt or maßgeblich.

See http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamt/490566363/ for an example.

One interesting issue is that in the 1996 spelling reform the status of ß as a single letter has been finally confirmed. In the previous spelling, the general rule was that short vowels are denoted by following them by doubled consonant letters while long vowels are followed by single consonant letters. So writing "met" always indicates a long "e:" while "mett" indicates a short "e".

In case of "s"/"ß", it was confusing. Following a vowel with a single "s" always denoted a long vowel, following a vowel with a doubled "ss" indicated a short vowel, but following a vowel with "ß" did not give clue whether the vowel was short or long. So "Ruß" was actually pronounced "ru:s" as if the "ß" stood for a single consonant letter, but "Nuß" was pronounced "nus" as if the "ß" stood for a doubled consonant letter.

The 1996 spelling removed this uncertainty by changing the spelling of all "ß" into "ss" when the preceding vowel was to be pronounced short. Today’s spelling of "Nuss" or "dass" underlines that the vowels are to be pronounced short.

The uppercasing of "ß" as "SS" but also as "SZ" defeats this clear rule. If I uppercase the word "Rußpartikel" into "RUSSPARTIKEL" or even "RUSZPARTIKEL", suddenly the natural way of pronouncing the "U" changes from short to long, so the reader is confused. The confusion is even bigger now, after the reform, because the special "undefined" treatment of "ß" no longer exists, so readers are used to "ß" being always treated as a single consonant letter, not as a ligature of a doubled consonant.

To remain logical, consistent and reader-friendly, "ß" needs (at some point) to assume a single graphemic shape in the uppercase.

I strongly feel that uppercasing "ß" as "SS" is now -- especially under the new rules -- a temporary anachronism. "ß" is a single CHARACTER (as per orthographic perception). It has functionally liberated itself from its historical background (which was a ligature of ſs or ſz).

Today, "ß" is no more a ligature of "ſs" than "ä" is a ligature of "ae". The transition process from "ae" to "ä" has been completed about 200 years ago, and the transition process between "ſs" to "ß" is happening now. Encoding the uppercase "ä" as "A ZWJ E" (or something like that) would make as little sense as encoding the uppercase "ß" as "S ZWJ S".

I believe that "SS" is an anachronic, still-in-use but slowly-to-vanish poor man’s solution to write the uppercase "ß". I believe that it should be an exciting task for type designers now to come up with a new form. In my opinion, this issue is definitely not one that is completely solved. We’re in the middle of a slow transition period for "ß". The 1996 reform started it and showed the direction.

I myself once had the idea that Scedilla (U+015E, Ş) would be most appropriate for denoting uppercase ß.

After all, Ş is historically an S with a subscribed z (that at this time looked like ʒ). Since ß is a ligature of either ſs or of ſʒ, uppercasing it as Sʒ, or, effectively, Ş, would historically make sense.

Using this notation, "Gauß" or "Roßberg" would be uppercased to "GAUŞ" or "ROŞBERG".

Similarly, the umlaut in "ä" or "ö" is historically a superscripted "e", so historically "ä" and "æ" are two different ligations of "ae", and "ö" and "œ" are two different ligations of "oe".

Since German readers are currently used to uppercasing ß as SS, i.e. they write "GAUSS" or "ROSSBERG", I even thought of a compromise: the SS remains doubled but for added distinctiveness, a subscribed z (i.e. a cedilla) is added after the first S. In other words, "Gauß" or "Roßberg" should be uppercased as "GAUŞS" or "ROŞSBERG".

Historically, this would make sense. The cedilla would here have a similar function to the trema in Spanish or French: "GAUŞS" would make clear that it comes from "Gauß" while "GAUSS" would make clear that it comes from "Gauss".

"ROŞSBERG" does not look very awkward to a German reader. The addition of a diacritic does not dramatically change the reading pattern but still adds a distinctive mark that is, indeed, needed. If I were to design a glyph that should go into U+1E9E, it would probably look like ŞS, or perhaps just SS, depending on the style of the typeface.

An alternative approach is to look at the existing uppercase-to-lowercase relations within the Latin alphabet and try to derive a shape for the uppercase ß which maintains the same relations.

In most of the middle ages and the period up until the 19th century, the long s ("ſ") and "f" were closely related, "f" being simply a "ſ" with a stroke going through. The same, very primitive graphic relation exists between the prototypic shapes of the Greek letters gamma (Γ) and digamma (Ϝ). Since the minuscule "f" always has been a "ſ" with a middle stroke, then the capital "F" might also be considered an uppercase "ſ" with a stroke going through. Of course an uppercase long s never existed, but this relation may be helpful when constructing the uppercase ß.

Because I think that *if* the Latin alphabet ever used or needed another capital S, the preferred shape could be that of a gamma (Γ). This is a simple, effective shape that maintains a stylistic relation to the lowercase long s that is typical of other uppercase-to-lowercase relations.

If we look at the relations between Aa Ee Ff Mm Pp, we will notice that sharp, edgy connections in the uppercase are related to more smooth, round connections in the lowercase. If "F" developed into "f" in a cursive hand, then it is very easy to imagine that a cursive rendition of the "Γ" shape might, indeed, look very much like "ſ".

This is an important observation when thinking about the shape of an uppercase "ß": I assert that the shape of uppercase "ß" must be "edgier" than the lowercase. In short, I think that the left part of uppercase ß should be "Γ".

What about the right part? Here, I would call to exploit the double origin of "ß", which developed paralelly as a ligature of "ſs" as well as of "ſz" (where the "z" historically used the "ʒ" shape, so "ſʒ").

These days, the lowercase "ß" is typically derived from the ligated form of "ſs". For visual dissimilation purposes -- to strongly set apart the lowercase and the (new) uppercase "ß" I would derive the uppercase "ß" from a ligation of the hypothetical uppercase "ſ" (i.e. "Γ") and the shape of "the other" origin of "ß", i.e. of the historical "Z" shape.

In short, I believe that the best graphical rendition of an uppercase "ß" would be be a well-designed ligature that incorporates these shapes: "ΓƷ"

I have made a small simulation using Garamond Premier (please excuse my poor drawing abilities):


http://www.twardoch.com/tmp/germandbls_garamond.png

The first line shows what the historical origin of ß looks like, i.e. long s followed by a round s. The second line shows the current shape of ß as we know it. The third line shows what a hypothetical uppercase long S might look like ("Γ"), which is just a mental exercise. The fourth line is my proposal for the uppercase ß shape.

Andreas Stötzner has proposed an elaborate document that tries to explore all possible combinations of drawing an uppercase ß:

http://www.signographie.de/cms/upload/pdf/Signa9_Kombinatorik_SZ_3.0.pdf

My proposal corresponds to the scheme A1-B2-C1, which I has the most "uppercase" appearance of all those presented there.

On a related matter, at the exhibition "Neue Baukunst. Berlin um 1800", which is on display at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin until May 28, I have discovered a fantastic calligraphic lowercase "ß" shape, in which the "long s" part connects to the BOTTOM and not to the top of the following "short s". Please take a look:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamt/490547406/

This got my imagination going.

Regards,
Adam

Jos Buivenga's picture

A designer feeling tempted to insert it should use keyboard or Glyph Palette.

I value your opinion, but Ralf also has a point. I think it would be nice if the designer could choose to do it manually or via an OpenType feature.

dan_reynolds's picture

Fortunately, I think, there are organizations around in Germany who make decisions about proper and improper German writing. The Unicode Consortium is not one of these organizations. IIRC, the most recent issue of DUDEN states that ß should be written as SS in strings of capital letters.

With a cap ß in Unicode, you could program a font to make substitutions like Meißner to MEIßNER (with cap ß… not in this font yet, hehe), but it still would not be correct German. The correct way is still MEISSNER. Now, because software has changed, perhaps a future DUDEN will make a spelling change, too. But it has not yet done so. And I think that they will want to hear from more than just a few concerned typographers, too, before they change the language's rules. Who knows?

So, when you build your fonts, if you put in a capital ß (who is really going to start doing this? Adobe? Microsoft? Monotype? Linotype? FontFont?), it requires a bit of code, because when the word Meißner is highlighted in InDesign and made all caps, the change should still be to MEISSNER. Since there is no cap ß key on any German keyboard, the cap ß will only have accessible via the glyph pallette or a stylistic set, contextual alternate, etc.

ralf h.'s picture

but it still would not be correct German. The correct way is still MEISSNER.

Dan, that's not true. According to the DUDEN proper names should keep their Eszett when set in caps.
Aus Gründen der Eindeutigkeit. (»for the sake of unambiguousness«)
They use the example »HEINZ GROßE« (set with a lowercase Eszett of course)

Ralf

dan_reynolds's picture

Good heavens! Figure out how to program it correctly then, I guess.

I am very sad.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Ralf, you have to provide the full quote to do justice to the Duden. ;-)

It’s merely a marginal note to the general ‘ß → SS’ rule and reads:
In Dokumenten kann bei Namen aus Gründen der Eindeutigkeit auch bei Großbuchstaben das ß verwendet werden

For the sake of unambiguousness, the ß may also be used for names, when set in capital letters, within documents.
[emphasis on the various qualificatory remarks by me]

ralf h.'s picture

Figure out how to program it correctly then, I guess.

Setting German text could never be done automatically. In blackletter you need to care about ch, ck and so on and in modern texts you still have to break automatic ligatures (fi/fl/ffl/ffi and so on) across the parts of compound words.

Jos Buivenga's picture

If you do want to use the ß in a caps environment you should bear in mind that most ß's are of ascenders height and do not have the same stem width as regular caps.

Nick Shinn's picture

This uppercase eszett is an encoded character, so it is not advisable to make it the target of glyph substitution via any layout feature.

There are some precedents, for ordinals, basic fractions, and the fi and fl ligatures.
What could go wrong if:

feature dlig {
sub S S by uni1E9E;
} dlig;

Although the cap ß is supposed to be a fully-fledged upper case letter, it isn't treated as such by the casing rules.
Isn't it reasonable to assume that typographers will think of it as a ligature?

paul d hunt's picture

Although the cap ß is supposed to be a fully-fledged upper case letter, it isn’t treated as such by the casing rules.

but it's not (not really). at least not according to the DUDEN, as explained by Florian above.

There are some precedents, for ordinals, basic fractions, and the fi and fl ligatures.

if you look at the behaviour for Arno Pro, you will see that none of these substitutions fall into Adobe's current "best practices" and have effectively been deprecated.

k.l.'s picture

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.

ralf h.'s picture

Again, there are well-established rules for eszett case-mapping.

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

k.l.'s picture

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 ...]

dezcom's picture

"...How to deal with it in features? Add “sub uni1E9E by germandbls;” in ’c2sc’ to address the uppercase-to-lowercase mapping mentioned in (2). No coverage in other features though..."

Thanks for that succinct clarification, Karsten. I now at least have a way to deal with the nuts and bolts of this issue as a non-German speaker and will happily allow others to debate the pros and cons of inclusion as a codepoint. :-)

ChrisL

ralf h.'s picture

My point is that it is not true that there were no problems at all. Your statement sounded as if a handful of people just made them up. The problems are known for at least a 100 years. Ambiguous proper names for hundrets of German cities and tens of thousand Germans are simply not acceptable in modern printing and data processing. That's pretty obvious and not just my own strange opinion.

Now that the Unicode point is official, it's up to the type designers and graphic designers to support it or not. Since the old case mapping is still in effect, everyone who doesn't like the capital sharp s has no need to worry. You can leave your OT features as they are and you can go on and set German texts as always.
As someone who would like to use, I'm perfectly fine if I have to fish it out of the glyph palette whenever I have to set a German proper name with an ß.

paul d hunt's picture

Ambiguous proper names for hundrets of German cities and tens of thousand Germans are simply not acceptable in modern printing and data processing. That’s pretty obvious and not just my own strange opinion.

of course it's an opinion. the question of what is acceptable will always be based upon opinions. the fact in this statement is that there are ambiguities that may or may not be acceptable depending on who you're talking to.

ralf h.'s picture

Karsten kindly reminded me that the concern of most people here is probably not the discussion about the pros and cons of this character, but how it affects OpenType features programming. The answer is simple: not at all. Put the character in the font and name it »uni1E9E«. That's all!

Nick Shinn's picture

“sub uni1E9E by germandbls;” in ’c2sc’

Why not: “sub uni1E9E by germandbls.smcp;” in ’c2sc’?
(Where germandbls.smcp is a small-cap version of the new character.)

Won't this decompose correctly in plain text?

paul d hunt's picture

How to deal with it in features? Add “sub uni1E9E by germandbls.sc;”* in ’c2sc’

even better would be "sub uni1E9E by uni1E9E.sc"

Nick Shinn's picture

Not really, because the character should decompose to ß in plain text.

A problem with "uni1E9E.sc" would occur if:

1. The original plain text is U&lc, with ß.
2. This is capitalized in a layout program with an "all caps" command.
3. Double-S (the capitalization of ß) is manually replaced by uni1E9E.
4. The text is changed to "All Small Caps", and output to pdf.

Now, a search will not recognize words which are composed of lower case characters, with uni1E9E mixed in.

At least, that's my present understanding of the protocol.

k.l.'s picture

P.D.H., yes, in both cases wich I mentioned it should be “sub uni1E9E by uni1E9E.sc;”, with "uni1E9E" before the smallcap suffix. I must be sleeping today.

aszszelp's picture

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.

ultrasparky's picture

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?

aszszelp's picture

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

--Szabolcs

ultrasparky's picture

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.

twardoch's picture

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

Cristiano's picture

I believe that “SS” is an anachronic, still-in-use but slowly-to-vanish poor man’s solution to write the uppercase “ß”. I believe that it should be an exciting task for type designers now to come up with a new form. In my opinion, this issue is definitely not one that is completely film izle solved. We’re in the middle of a slow transition period for “ß”. The 1996 reform started it and showed the direction.

Si_Daniels's picture

>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!

dan_reynolds's picture

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

cuttlefish's picture

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?

Tim Ahrens's picture

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.

hrant's picture

> Plenty of other uppercase letters look like enlarged lowercase counterparts

A sad reality that we should not amplify.

hhp

Tim Ahrens's picture

I have played around a bit:

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.

eliason's picture

> Plenty of other uppercase letters look like enlarged lowercase counterparts

A sad reality that we should not amplify.

Sounds like the seeds of an interesting Type Battle.

twardoch's picture

Tim,

handsome work. I like the one that you used in the top row (the one incorporated into the word "großes"). But my favorite is number 2 in the bottom row (the one with the edge on the top): thanks to the edgy roof, there is no way to mistake it for a "B". Also, it's easier and more natural to draw by hand (one-two-three straight strokes plus an S shape). The forms with the half-rounded top are somewhat unnatural and clunky to draw by hand -- the top part requires an "unfinished", "interrupted" hand movement. Also, the form (number 2 in the bottom row) has an unmistakengly "capital" flavor.

A.

Rob O. Font's picture

Adam: "...there is no way to mistake it for a “B”..."

LOL...there is no way to mistake it for an 'S' for that matter.

Why not make an "uppercase" long and short 's' look more like an FG ligature, or a PQ ligature, or a pie chart! ;)

Cheers!

twardoch's picture

David,

There is no need to mistake it for an "S" just like there is no need to mistake a "ß" for an "s". ẞ should look like an uppercase form of ß. That's it.

Nick Shinn's picture

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's picture

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

Rob O. Font's picture

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!

Tim Ahrens's picture

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.

Tim Ahrens's picture

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?

Nick Shinn's picture

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.

Mark Simonson's picture

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.

Mark Simonson's picture

Here's how I might do it with Trajan:

Tim Ahrens's picture

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.

Mark Simonson's picture

I think I made the Futura version too narrow. I think this works better:

ralf h.'s picture

After all, we distinguish many letters by relatively small differences.

Which ones?
There are letters like E/F or P/R which share large parts, but they still have a significant difference in there general skeleton, and this difference is maintained and clearly visible in any size or any kind of type style. But all of Marks designs use the skeleton of the B with a "strange thing" going on at the bottom. I read nothing but Bs even if I try to see a cap Eszett.
Tim's designs are not the ones I would favour, but they clearly solve the problem. I am not tempted at all to read GROBES.

piccic's picture

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…

Mark Simonson's picture

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.

dezcom's picture

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

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