Small Capital Eszett?

Tosche's picture

Hi guys.
I'm making a font and trying to include capital ß, and small capital ß as well. I understand that Capital ß was recently added to Unicode as U+1E9E LATIN CAPITAL LETTER SHARP S, but I can't find the small capital one. I suppose it's probably not yet included, but I'm not sure. Does anyone know about the issue, and is there no problem not assigning a Unicode number? (I'm planning to make this character appear by Opentype smcp or salt feature)

ralf h.'s picture

The dilemma we face as type designers and type aficionados is that we are very close to form issues and very far from being naive readers.

Yes, and that's why we can continue this discussion forever – we will never agree on just ONE shape. Just make your Capital Sharp S and let the German readers decide what they like.
BTW: Were keeping a list of releases with this character on this page: http://www.typografie.info/typowiki/index.php?title=Versal-Eszett
If you have released a typeface with capital sharp s, please send me an image with a sample word.
(But please choose one with correct orthography. The one used in this thread is not correct. »Einfluss« is always spelled with double-s today. Here is a list with over 400 German city names that include an Eszett.)

dezcom's picture

"Here is a list with over 400 German city names that include an Eszett"

Thanks Ralf! I can certainly use that list :-)

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture


Here are a few.
Loser Girl can't make up her mind how to write this thing.

dezcom's picture

Using a name from Ralf's approved list :-)

ChrisL

Jos Buivenga's picture

Chris, in your heaviest weight the (upper right of) Versal ß seems to point up more then the lightest weight.

+++

Here's a new attempt.

dezcom's picture

Thanks Jos! I think you are right. I will work on that.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't know guys, the Eszett character has the general shape of a human ear (see Jimmy Typeface), so isn't making it pointed a little too much lycanthropy? Maybe it's just me, but that's the fantasy-creature vibe I can't shake.

On a purely typographic level, the acute top right shape doesn't look like part of the character, but a go-faster glyph styling, like in Dynamo. But hey, at least Dynamo is a German design!

Jos Buivenga's picture

What you're trying to say is that you find the uc shape a bit alienated?
That's spock on (I hope Jimmy won't mind).

Nick Shinn's picture

LOL.

dezcom's picture

Beam me up, Jos!!! :-)

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I think Mike Tyson can figure out a way to make the disfigured ear thing work as well as Spock :-)

ChrisL

Jos Buivenga's picture

Oh ... now ... that's ... lycanthropic behavior. :-)

A lesser known fact is that 12 years ago Mike called me to eagerly ask if I could design Eszetts for his alphabet soup. Sadly for Evander I wasn't able to finish this assignment on time.

dezcom's picture

More biting humor from Jos :-)

ChrisL

ralf h.'s picture

Another brand new real-world example:

A local newspaper that is distributed in over 100.000 households around the city of Gießen now uses a capital Eszett for their logo.
It's not very well done and they also really need to get one for their headlines in Walbaum, but it's still a sign that this character is already catching on.

billtroop's picture

Very nice, Jos, I think this vindicates Chris's bottom right curve idea -- there's something about it that is crucially non-distracting. Nick, I think your solutions are absolutely beautiful but too distracting because of the too-faithful adherence to the bottom S-curve termination idea. However, that may be the best that can be done with the form. Had you tried Chris's idea and found it wouldn't work for seriffed type? Jos and Chris, I wonder if for both of your designs, the upper left hand curve can't start a little sooner? But maybe that wouldn't work? It wouldn't make logical sense of course. Might it make visual, and psycho-visual sense? We're dealing with extraordinary intangibles here but it's wonderful to see how well people are rising to the challenge.

k.l.'s picture

I fear Gießener Zeitung is exemplary of more atrocities brave German readers will have to face in future ...

Christian Harder's picture

I don't dislike the idea of a capital Eszett per se (although I wonder how many circumstances I would end up using it in), but I think it's worth pointing out that the courageous folk at the Gießener Zeitung may be treating it more as a curio or trademark than as a serious piece of typography. They identify their newspaper as "die mit dem großen ß" — "the one with the capital ß." I wonder if they use it in any all-caps situation outside the name of the paper?

Christian A. Harder

billtroop's picture

Well, “die mit dem großen ß” exemplifies a theory that many font marketers, but especially German ones, have expressed to me - - that for the 'common man' who buys a special type for his company, the way to sell the type to him is to say 'now you can say "I am the one with the special g"' or the italic p, or whatever. And what's wrong with that? I can't imagine cap esszet ever becoming a crucially important typographic feature, but I would expect it gradually to become acceptable, and even expected, perhaps over a period of some decades. It's really rather exciting. How often can one think of adding a new character to the alphabet that is actually accepted? Yet here it seems to be unfolding before our eyes.

At least everyone here is trying to think constructively and typographically about the future. What a contrast to the static situation of the untypographical eth where, as far as we know, a set of rules completely at odds with rational design and with typography itself, must be observed without the least possibility of reform.

Nick Shinn's picture

...adherence to the bottom S-curve termination idea.

Firstly, in serifed type, some kind of stroke terminal is necessary, and one that fits the typeface.
As you surmise Bill, the terminal curls up to clear the serif:

Secondly, I like the way the terminal angle in the sans can align with other elements.

The main thing I'm trying to do is balance the proportions of the interior white space, so that the bottom counter is slightly larger than the top one. I varied the treatment in Figgins Sans, depending on the weight:

billtroop's picture

Nick I can't think of anything better, but, thanks to your beautiful drawing, you're helping me to see why I don't like this form. The terminal curl brings your eye back to the left stem - - just where it shouldn't be in left-to-right reading. I like that the Giessener Zeitung illustrates the Lozos method. I still think the upper left hand curve is too sharp, but I haven't had the opportunity to experiment myself yet. I wonder who designed the GZ glyph?

dezcom's picture

"Jos and Chris, I wonder if for both of your designs, the upper left hand curve can’t start a little sooner? But maybe that wouldn’t work?"
Bill, my dilemma with that is fitting with other caps. As a concept, it is fine and may work with a very wide light face with open spacing. The compared busy look of the righthand side seems a bit awkward to space with the faces I have been working on. I suspect a higher contrast roman may be a better place to try it. I think the basic form agreed upon at some point in the future by German speakers will hopefully allow for a plethora of typographic styles already in use. I refer to the beginning point and severity of the curve being left open to suit the design as opposed to mandatory for all typefaces.

ChrisL

billtroop's picture

>fitting with other caps

Chris, when you say fitting here, are you worried about space, or consistency of form or both?

>as opposed to mandatory

You're absolutely right Chris. The less mandatory the better.

Type is an inherently rigid mode of expression. We don't need to make it more so. I dislike the little rules that parvenus and the insecure are so addicted to. The mentality that causes Type Guru A to tell Zapf that he can't design a sterling sign with two bars. In the first place, Guru A is historically wrong. In the second place, nobody cares if he's right outside of management who paid him and now has proof he's worth it, third, it's rude, fourth it's too silly to think about, fifth it's typographically irrelevant and sixth, even if it were, Zapf's view is more important than Type Guru A's. (tragic example drawn from real life)

It's natural in a craft to want to have rules, to want to make rules. Learning the rules is one of the ways you learn the craft. But rulemaking, like power, corrupts! I want never to fall into this trap. Thanks for the reminder!

Nick Shinn's picture

Not rules, but standards.

I experimented with different approaches...
http://typophile.com/node/33647

...but came to the conclusion that the one in the Andreas Stötzner proposal was best:
http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/N3227.pdf
After all, it's his baby.

But in the future, for other faces, I might change my tune. Having a standard is a good place to start, it will lessen the perplexity of those readers exposed to this "new" thing, and it will mean that designers who go their own way better have a good reason.

I like Toshi's approach for an old-style (antiqua), shown above in this thread.
Having alternate forms suggests a richness, diversity, and history, which is something you get with other, well-established characters.

guifa's picture

I did several rough sketches for a capital Eszett for my font and sent a picture of them in between other capitals to a friend of mine in Germany who then showed it around to a lot of his friends. They aren't design freaks, but most all were graduate students so I figure they were using their brain in picking.

Anyways, after roughly tabulating their votes between "yes" "no" and "maybe but not really" or "maybe" etc. I came up with this conclusion (sorry for scrolling):

I attempted to do every variation I could think of so I could see what elements worked and what didn't (the first one is of course the lowercase. It seems like the gamma top corner would be slightly more recognizable though not overwhelmingly so. Descenders were generally acceptable (the full curved descender matches the J in this font). Oddly enough (to me) the one after the C was seen more favorably than the following one (after Y) which i thought would have been more recognizable and preferred.

Variety of forms will be nice, I think the lc eszett has the most varying forms I can think of for a latin letter so it makes sense the uppercase will be equally as complex.

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

guifa's picture

Also here's my Sutterlin and fraktur attempts. (I don't have a sutterlin font yet I've worked on so it's just outline sketches in OmniGraffle)


Of courrse neither were ever used in all caps so their design is totally moot but it's interesting to think how they might have been formed. There are some other possibilities like doing a double S but in Sutterlin that looks like an M when written. The fraktur could likely go the opposite, with a long left stem down and a shortened Z.

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

ralf h.'s picture

Ralf, I like your variation but I think you worry too much about B-ness. Character differentiation at small sizes is an issue in itself, one that affects all characters. b-ness, or Beta-ness, is also a problem that afflicts many of the badly designed lowercase esszet glyphs of the past ...

After looking again at all the designs made by designers from outside Germany, I must bring up the B-ness problem again. It is true that the similarities between between ß and β are no problem at all, because they will usually never appear in the same context. But B and the Capital Sharp S will appear in the same context all the time, when German texts are set in uppercase letters. And even worse: This can easily change the meaning of the text. For example: "groß" (big) is used all the time. But if you set it in uppercase letters and the Capital Sharp S is used, you can easily read is as "grob", which means rude/crude/gross.
So it is really necessary to have a clear distinction between B and the Capital Sharp S. An increased width* might be one way to achieve this, but there might be other ways. Looking at the examples in this thread, I don't think we have a sufficient solution yet.

*) I don't think the design of the Capital Sharp S (or any other letter) requires certain proportions in a non-geometric typeface. What "feels right", is just what we are used to. But since we are creating a new letter here, we can make up the proportions that will feel right in the future.

Nick Shinn's picture

...designs made by designers from outside Germany...

I don't accept that inference.
My designs follow the Stötzner model.

But continuing your line of thought Ralf, note that the feature of my glyphs which Bill has criticized--the "terminal curling back"--actually serves to disambiguate the letter from what could otherwise be interpreted as a "stencil" version of B at the bottom.

ralf h.'s picture

Really no offence indended. Note that I said that in my opinion WE (all) haven't found a sufficient solution yet.
Actually I wouln't be surprised if someone outside Germany would find the best shape. We Germans might not to see the wood for the trees. I just wanted to point out problems such as "grob" vs. "groß", which might not be as obvious for designers who don't speak the language.

dezcom's picture

This is greatly a problem with adding a new glyph when the others have been around for centuries. We can also confuse a P for an R or an R for a B but we won't because we are quite used to them for years. The proposed cap Eszett form with a curve on the upper left is the only non-circular cap letter to have a curve in this position except the S (discounting G, C, O and Q as circular forms). The distinguishes it from the B as well as anything else. I don't think proportions can be dependable a solution for distinction given the variability that we already have. Think of a condensed/compressed cut sans like Univers or Compacta and a widened cap form in one letter would just stick out too much and stop reading.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

...no offence indended...

None taken.
IMO, Stötzner's solution, as presently in the Unicode chart, is OK.
One alternate (see Toshi's example, above) is OK for old-style.
And other treatments, such as Matthew's, are worth pursuing.

There is a problem with the Stötzner model, however.
Not the basic shape (I agree with Chris' rationale), but the way that the stress is rendered, which doesn't conform to a simple broad-pen paradigm.
The top half of the right side is "reverse" stressed, as in Z, but the bottom half is normally stressed, as in B.
These two differing stress treatments are perhaps too close together.
So really it's up to type designers to resolve this issue.
In Beaufort (see my Sept. 5 post), I followed consistent stress angle and made the diagonal thin in the Light weight, but somehow that didn't work for me in the Bold weights.
There's lots of scope for designers to tailor their cap-eszett glyphs to their typefaces.

Bendy's picture

Interesting discussion. I've been playing with different forms for my font Eternal (see in the serif critique section if you're interested) and wonder if anyone can shed any light on my drafts for the capital eszett. You can probably tell it's not a letter I use!
The angular bit seems to my eye to need to be thin, as the curve and the stem are both heavy. I tried both ways, which ones are best?


(Version 2 is the lowercase)
I think version 1 might be best, if the right serif on the base disappears and the counter can be narrower?
Thanks :)

guifa's picture

I rather like 1 and 7, but I think 1 might be a bit too dynamic. Because the R and 5 push upwards (tho not the B interestingly) I prefer the ones that have a slight upward swing on the top (1, 6, 7). Does your uc J descend? What would a combination of the left stem and top part of 7 look like with the lower part of 1? Number 4 the smaller S is just a bit too obvious to my eye. I think 5 or 6 would be a more "conservative" form if we can use that term yet :)

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

Bendy's picture

I have attempted both ways, thinning the first version to make it not too dynamic, and combining the bits you suggested (though the stress is not really right on the infacing curve).
5 and 6 in my last post look kind of Cyrillic to me.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I don't find the use of what is clearly a lower-case-sized s in the capital eszett design at all convincing. It's pleasing to the eye, but it just doesn't feel like a capital letter to me! So something like version 5 or 6 works better to my eye, even though it is not as pleasing a design.

Cheers,

T

billtroop's picture

I'm with Thomas on no. 5, except that I also think it's the most pleasing. For what it's worth I also strongly support the non-chirographic elements of the design.

Bendy's picture

Thanks for your comments. It is a hard thing to go with a less pleasing design because it fits with the other letters, but I guess that's where the balance has to be brought in.
I fear it's a case of "a beautiful collection of letters, not a collection of beautiful letters."
I'll keep tinkering!
:)

twardoch's picture

I like 5 and 6.
A.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't think it's possible to adequately appraise the choices without seeing them set in words.

Arno Enslin's picture

@ Matthew

http://typophile.com/files/capital_eszett3c_3909.png

The one with the biggest hook (the third one from the right) is the most terrible. I am German and I like the fourth one from the right the most, although it could have a smaller width. From round about 100 Eszett I see only one is not a pain in my eyes. Especially those ones, that are curved on the left side only, look like aliens. I don’t think, it is a question of habituation. I think, that I prefer those Eszett with a descender. Maybe because I hate it, how the end of the stroke almost touches the (serif of the) vertical stem. And in the case of the fourth one from the right I especially like the directional change. Many Eszett are too wide in my opinion. Maybe it is possible to make them less wide, if they have a descender.

@ All

I think, it is better not to release a font with a capital Eszett, that has not passed 20 German eyes (not necessarily blue eyes!) at least.

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