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

nina's picture

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.

k.l.'s picture

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?

nina's picture

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.

cuttlefish's picture

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!

hrant's picture

> 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

Florian Hardwig's picture

has some sort of structural incompatibility with the rest of the alphabet (which I don’t think I do)

For a second I thought you perceive yourself as (quite compatible) part of the alphabet!
‘armeniandblhp is coming to Unicode’ – go, Hrant, go!

Rob O. Font's picture

"Now, who is to say whether the upper case long s [...] looks like its lowercase counterpart or not...[?]"
Its alphabet, its users.

" — whether Mr Berlow qualified for judging by not submitting his own Eszett to the jury or not —"
Jury? Don't judges judge anymore?

"That feels like reverse science fiction."
I think that's called "history."

Thanks to all the German-speaking readers, writers and letterdrawers for their comments.

I think this is one of those topics where time will tell, if more specific logic doesn't catch up with idle hands first.

Cheers!

Nick Job's picture

> A great specific example here is the ampersand. It comes from “e” + “t”. Whoop-di-doo.

Hrant, I don't agree with you because the E/e and t were not forced to look like (what we now call) a conventional ampersand unnaturally from the beginning, but over a matter of centuries. Could we not at least try to start in roughly the place it feels like it 'ought' to start, i.e. with a capital eszett and a cap S. What you are trying to do is make a vast and many-centuried leap of honing and tweaking in a single day. Once again, I greatly admire your ambitious enterprise but on this occasion it is, for me at least, very dissatisfying and misses out the most important part of the development, which is the establishment of what the embryonic form 'ought' to look like.

Here's one I did earlier, like it?

aszszelp's picture

Nick, from a German point of view, that's

pretty much not identifyable as a capital version of ß... Honestly, the most I was reading was "GRORSEN" with a funky (enlarged monoline serifless minuscule) r kerned badly with the following S.

Nick Job's picture

Yeah, figured as much.

Nick Job's picture

Sz., please can you tell us what the shape of the uppercase eszett is that you can most easily read as an uppercase eszett. (Thanks for calling part of my design 'funky' even though it was totally useless!)

hrant's picture

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

dezcom's picture

"...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

Nick Job's picture

>>”...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.

hrant's picture

> 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

nina's picture

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).

dezcom's picture

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

k.l.'s picture

judges judge

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

dezcom's picture

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

dezcom's picture

4 basic frameworks crudely drawn.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

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

Jongseong's picture

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.

ralf h.'s picture

please can you tell us what the shape of the uppercase eszett is that you can most easily read as an uppercase eszett.

That's simple: We are only familiar with the lc shape, so that's what we recognize as an Eszett, even if it is placed within uc text.
For obvious typographic reasons we need a corresponding uc shape, instead of just using the lowercase Eszett in uppercase text. So we need to capitalize the lowercase shape. But if we do that, we end up with a character that looks like a B, so we can't use that either. What we need is a compromise. A shape that is close enough to the lowercase Eszett and far enough from the B.
I think it is already pretty obvious where we are heading with that:

A lot of designers seem to believe that such a compromise could never be a "real" capital letter, but I don't think this is true. It may look weird if your not used to it, but once it will be heavily used in Germany and Austria, it will just blend in with all the other characters. (We also just had spelling reformation with the same discussions about the old and new, what looks weird or "right". Now, just after a couple of years, the (younger) people have already adapted the new rules, as if they were always there. It wont be any different with the capital Eszett.)

Furthermore I expect the capital Eszett to evolve further over the next decades. Once it will be in common use its shape may evolve away from the original compromise. But this needs to happen slowly. We cannot use the "2058 shape" today, even if we would know how it would look like. People wouldn't be able to read it and therefore not accept it. Like they would probably consider a car of the year 2058 an ugly bastard, without having seen the evolution that led to its design.

paul d hunt's picture

Maybe the cap eszet doesn’t need to look anything like the lc eszet.

Aye, there's the rub! Funnily enough, my thoughts went right to a section looking sign myself. i tried a few quick drawings, but haven't had time to post a well-drawn version of what i came up with. Maybe after new years. I just hate the concept of a capital eszett anyway, but it's not my language. I understand those over-efficient German speakers need it to eradicate any possibility of ambiguity in their written language.

Nick Job's picture

One other thought, isn't the overall accepted way(s) of designing this character going to be dictated, to a very great extent, by the most used typefaces at the time. So if we were having this discussion ten years ago, then I'm afraid the Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Times, Comic Sans etc. styles would now be determining not the best way to design the cap eszett but the commonest and inadvertently spearhead the recognition issue through people's familiarity. We probably all agree that the most used typefaces are not the best looking. Again, we're doomed!

Ralf, that purple overlay diagram is very telling. What I guess you have to do is have the measure of transparency related to the recognition of each shape to give an even more accurate description of the accepted form. It's looking to me less like a Gamma (and less like a B) at the front end every time someone posts a new pic.

Chris, your four weren't that bad looking, you really don't need to worry. If I could draw type half as 'crudely' as you I'd be laughing.

guifa's picture

So basically with Ralf's diagram there are two obligatory elements and one binary option for serif fonts.

If we imagine it as having a left and right side, the left side must go up and then curve to horizontal. On the right side, the lower half has an uptick terminal and then curves something like an S upwards.

The option then comes in connecting the bottom right with the top left. Either continue the S curve into the top (old fashioned model) or connect with a diagonal (Ralf's prefered model).

The section symbol is an interesting idea, but I'm not sure given the section symbol's long history that readers would be able to read it as anything else other than a section symbol.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

aszszelp's picture

Hrant, the idea of an SS-ish ligature was proposed in the thread mentioned earlier on the typeforum.de. Most were "straightforward" SS-ligations, and pretty unsuccessful. The altered section sign might be promising though :-)
By the way, also using Ş was proposed, i.e. an S with a CEDILLA (you get it: cedilla = little (long) Z), which I believe is a lovely idea, however, as I have argued on the forum, I don't believe it would be adopted by the user community, as it would feel very "foreign" (in a negative sense) to Germans.

Jongseong, the Prussian example only demonstrates, that the actual grapheme of Prussian to represent /sh/ was a digraph <sz> (like in Polish), and that ß was understood as a ("stylistic") ligature of s and z.

Matthew, I think Ralf's diagram is "biassed" and you cannot use it alone to draw conclusions. E.g. he seems to use only a single layer with an angle on the top-left, while, clearly, several designs (w.r.t the right part of the letter) can exist having a Gamma-ish corner.

Szabolcs

hrant's picture

> those over-efficient German speakers ....

Yeah, they should just totally reform their
spelling so it's... "mystical" like English. ;-)

> isn’t the overall accepted way(s) of designing this character going to be
> dictated, to a very great extent, by the most used typefaces at the time.

Indeed. This is what makes it very important to get a concerted, intelligent effort going, and then promulgate it, so that people making those future popular typefaces have something good to look at instead of being tempted to just whip something up based only on their own ideas.

Think for example of the Euro character. The original mandated design is unusable, so people started making their own in any which way. Some of that is wonderful (and there's no reason somebody couldn't make a unique cap eszet at any time*) but I'm sure there were designers out there looking for help but not finding it [easily].

* Whatever comes out of the cap eszet discussions will certainly not be mandated in any way.

> If we imagine it as having a left and right side

I think it's better if we didn't.

> I’m not sure given the section symbol’s long history that readers would
> be able to read it as anything else other than a section symbol.

Good point, it's better not to use it (even though many people actually can't identify the Section symbol). But I can imagine something that looks very much like two "S"es but not too much like a Section. In fact I think most Section glyphs would not be identified by most people as two "S"es.

hhp

ralf h.'s picture

I think Ralf’s diagram is “biassed”

No need to put that in quotes. It sure IS biassed. Send me your capital Eszett AI oder EPS files and I'll include them.

dezcom's picture

Most section signs I have seen are quite dense and busy looking. They also are so curve heavy that they seem anti-uppercase in form. I think we need something that feels more like family with the rest of the caps and less like a celestial invader.

ChrisL

eliason's picture

Here are some "2058" variations. If, as I anticipate, you think of these as "ugly bastards," that only proves my prescience, right?

eliason's picture

@dezcom ^That second one is an homage to Froggy.

dezcom's picture

LOL, Craig! :-)

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

The second one is a brilliant idea, but the thick horizontal stroke is bit long for the font, so you might have to redesign the rest of the typeface to accomodate your new glyph. I mean, why does the new guy have to make all the concessions to fit in?

dezcom's picture

After all, Nick, it is a long S. :-)

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Craig, now that's what I'm talkin' about!

I love the second one too. If it were narrower and the cusps less... cuspy* I think it would be a very strong option. As for the fourth one, it would make a great symbol for the sex industry. :-)

* Maybe have a full vertical serif there; in a Scotch, a ball.

I was also imagining a Section-inspired cap eszet to possibly be made of two parts. Picture the top two 2/3-rds of an "S" and the bottom 2/3-rds of an "S", offset with some gap between them (tweaked to not lean). This does seem like a long-shot however, since no other cap is made of two parts...

hhp

cuttlefish's picture

A section mark looks like it should fit the role of a cap double-S, but it doesn't look very German (seems more French to me). But, not being German myself, who am I to say?

Anyway, here are some section marks I have designed:

I've made sections based on stacked "s"s, or a stretched S with a ring inserted, but strangely the most S like one resulted from stacked "c"s.

(All of these are on the same line of text set at 72pt. This doesn't look quite right.)

eliason's picture

Picture the top two 2/3-rds of an “S” and the bottom 2/3-rds of an “S”, offset with some gap between them (tweaked to not lean). This does seem like a long-shot however, since no other cap is made of two parts...

I had sketches along those lines, but actually connecting the strokes with a vertical or diagonal minor stroke - but they all wound up looking too hurricany.

hrant's picture

2058?

hhp

dezcom's picture

Funny, it doesn't look Uish :-)

ChrisL

Tim Ahrens's picture

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".

eliason's picture

Why not take "sharp S" literally?

I suspect this would be readable some time before 2058.

Nick Shinn's picture

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.

hrant's picture

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

dezcom's picture

Craig,
ZZ Top would buy that one right away :-)

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

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

Not I, my efforts have been quite conventional so far, following the Leipzig and Dresden models.

Rob O. Font's picture

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!

dezcom's picture

Thanks, David! That looks so sensible to me. I don't read German but I get the gist from the images. It looks like some of that is from as far back as 1955! I posted a link to this page in one of my earlier comments above. I wonder what most Germans would think about these possibilities? They look right on to me.

ChrisL

cagri's picture

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.

cagri's picture

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.

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