Most hideous writing system?

John Hudson's picture

Over in the 'Most beautiful alphabet' thread, Hrant writes, in response to the suggestion that any writing system in the hands of a competent lettering artist or calligrapher can be beautiful:

Nah, some scripts are just dog-ugly no matter how hard you try.

So, what do you think are the least visually attractive writing systems, the ones that are difficult or even impossible to make look beautiful?

Si_Daniels's picture

Klingon!

Nick Shinn's picture

This is absurd.
Beauty is culture specific, so any preference one way or another is merely a reflection of cultural bias.

Certainly, some scripts are harder to write than others if you're not a native, but that doesn't make them inherently ugly.

hrant's picture

Well, beauty isn't so easily defined. But certainly nobody can accuse Vietnamese of being the most beautiful... The thing is, as much as I value political incorrectness, I can't claim it was the fault of the Vietnamese people - it was the Europeans.

Nick:
- What's absurd is such extreme relativism.
- Why didn't you complain in the other thread? Because people were only saying nice things?

BTW, John, what's your selection? :-)

hhp

cuttlefish's picture

[redacted]

speter's picture

nobody can accuse Vietnamese of being the most beautiful

Perhaps not beautiful, but I've always found it fascinating. Perhaps it's the linguist in me.

Although I am part Cherokee, I find most implementations of the Cherokee syllabary to be ugly.

hrant's picture

Also, bicameral writing systems seem to tend to have one nice "chamber" and one not. Armenian's lc is very nice, but its UC has ungainly members; Latin has a sublime UC, but its lc is homely (but not ugly).

BTW, can Morse Code -which is essentially a writing system- be beautiful? Maybe once in a blue moon to some rare soul, but certainly not enough to be qualified as Beautiful.

> You were asking for our opinions

Exactly.
And it is furthermore possible -and desirable- to aggregate people's opinions.

hhp

cuttlefish's picture

No, I'm going back to what I said before: Deseret
At first it looks pretty with those loopy shapes, but somehow it just doesn't work for me.

joeclark's picture

Ignore Shinn. You were asking for our opinions, not a statement of what 2 plus 2 equals.

Answer: Amharic.


Joe Clark
http://joeclark.org/

cuttlefish's picture

Although I am part Cherokee, I find most implementations of the Cherokee syllabary to be ugly.

I'm working on it.

Nick Shinn's picture

- Why didn’t you complain in the other thread? Because people were only saying nice things?

Right on. Peace.

Nick Shinn's picture

Ignore Shinn. You were asking for our opinions.

That was my opinion, Clark.

John Hudson's picture

Nick, I didn't ask what scripts are objectively hideous, I asked what ‘you’ -- the Typolloi -- think are the least attractive scripts. I'm interested in the opinions, culturally or idiosyncratically biased as they undoubtedly will be.

Nick Shinn's picture

John, I don't perceive scripts as being attractive or repellent.
I'm not immune to beauty, but IMO it's all in the execution.

Nick Job's picture

Now hang on, you're asking which script is minging? But I love Latin type in some faces but hate Latin type in other faces. Wouldn't that extend to other language systems as well? For me it's all about the typeface and less or nothing to do with the language system itself.

I can understand someone disliking a particular script but they will almost certainly have a typeface (or handwriting) in mind when they are making those judgments, won't they? Does anyone genuinely have a neutral idea of a script without attaching a particular rendering, whether it be calligraphic or typographic. Does such a neutral or elemental version of each script even exist? Nope, that's just too subjective to be in any way meaningful.

For example, I find one script largely hideous, but I don't think that saying which it is will be in any way constructive in this debate, it may even be spiteful! Next, there are some versions of that particular script that make the thing itself look better and some that make it look worse. The same is true for Latin.

>>>it’s all in the execution

That, and what I have become used to and thus wedded, affectionate, anaesthetised, immune, indifferent or even completely switched off to.

Si_Daniels's picture

How about Braille - something about it gives me the bumps.

nina's picture

I think Braille is pretty ingenious. Simple, systematic, useful, usable.
It ain't pretty though, I'll give you that.

I'll say again that I think the Futhark ain't pretty. Not hideous, just not pretty. I really can't think of a hideous one (although Vietnamese does come pretty close).

blank's picture

I’ll second Deseret. Although I think that has a lot to do with how quickly it came into existence—most writing systems took at least a few centuries more.

joeclark's picture

Also not wild about Malayalam, but I won’t call it “ugly.”


Joe Clark
http://joeclark.org/

dezcom's picture

Vietnamese does look like an explosion in a diacritics factory. I think it is more humorous than ugly. It is like an overly patched shoe, it still works as a shoe but it makes you wonder how long it will last.

In all truth, I don't think there are any dog-ugly scripts, just some less likable breeding combinations that have been unleashed on to the world.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Si,

Klingon is a divine script, even otherworldly.

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

>Klingon is a divine script, even otherworldly.

As is Deseret ;-)

ivandurakov's picture

>>BTW, can Morse Code -which is essentially a writing system- be beautiful?

It is NEVER written by those actually using it...

Paul Cutler's picture

I am currently using written morse code. Works for me…

pbc

Si_Daniels's picture

- .... .. ... / - .... .-. . .- -.. / .... .- ... / --. --- -. . / -.. --- .-- -. / .... .. .-.. .-..

charles ellertson's picture

Sherlock Holmes' Dancing Men

cuttlefish's picture

So what's wrong with Klingon?

(I know there is plenty wrong with it. Just trying to make conversation.)

Quincunx's picture

I think it all depends on how the piece of writing is executed, not specifically the writing system itself. I suspect that most if not all writing systems can look beautiful if it's done by a gifted calligrapher, as stated in the first post.

Of course, there are scripts that look more appealing (to me or maybe to everybody) than others.

russellm's picture

Orc is pretty bad.

For a close second, my In-laws gave us these hammered copper plaques with our names transliterated in acient Irish runes.

-=®=-

russellm's picture

-=®=-

Paul Cutler's picture

>- .... .. ... / - .... .-. . .- -.. / .... .- ... / —. —- -. . / -.. —- .— -. / .... .. .-.. .-..

Actually sii there are 3 dots between letters and 7 dots between words in International Morse Code. Not to be a spelling/grammar fanatic… :)

•--••••-••••••-•-•

Paul Cutler's picture

I think all is forgiven… :)

I am using this in a club identity. It's fun transmitting messages that look like geometric nonsense. I was looking at another geometric design based on the sidewalks outside the club and no matter how I tried to randomize, it wasn't. Then I changed it to morse code. Much better.

pbc

Nachos's picture

Thai. Looks like tadpoles to me.

Queneau's picture

Well, I think cyrillic often looks pretty ugly, especially the caps... But hell, beauty is in the eye of the beholder :-)

"It’s fun transmitting messages that look like geometric nonsense."

I recently came across the ancient berber/tuareg alphabet Tifinagh, which is pretty amazing (and apparently still used by some), though I'm glad I don't have to use it making random notes or shopping lists!

cheerio Queneau

dberlow's picture

The web.

Nick Shinn's picture

Texting.

billy_'s picture

Braille...ain't pretty.
You are judging a system that is meant to be touched by how it looks. I don't care for the Latin alphabet because it tastes horrible.

hrant's picture

I think the "Q" tastes great! Plus it has a
handle so you don't get your hands dirty.

hhp

nina's picture

Hrant grabs Q's by their tails! :-{
Doesn't that hurt them? (I'm such a girl.)

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant, you said "Q". Hehehe.

dezcom's picture

Greek tastes like dolmades to me :-)

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

I’ll second Deseret. Although I think that has a lot to do with how quickly it came into existence—most writing systems took at least a few centuries more.

I think this is the main problem with most writing systems that I consider to be 'less-than-well-informed' (not necessarily ugly), It seems several more recent script/alphabet developments that were developed with only one media in mind (be it handwriting, type, typewriter, screen, &c.) suffer from having characters or diacritics that are clumsy at least to design in a range of type styles and probably and probably sometimes clumsy in writing.

I quite like Latin script, it has an almost endless range of styles: from all the calligraphic hands and all the wonderful type styles that were developed first for Latin script. However, Latinized Vietnamese is an assault on the eyes and it seems to me that whoever concocted the current orthography didn't do so in as thoughtful a manner as might have been done. I like Latinized Navajo MUCH more than Vietnamese and it seems that Navajo solves some of the same problems as are present in Vietnamese in a more elegant (but probably not perfect) manner. I really don't like the combining accents in Vietnamese that always seem (to me) to be colliding, no matter how nicely you try to make them appear. Vietnamese needs a refresh.

I really like the Cyrillic script. I think it works better in writing than in print. The capitals are wonderful, but the canonized form of the lower case could do with some more experimental treatments to find something that harmonizes better with than the current iteration. That said, I don't feel that the so-called Bulgarian Cyrillic is an improvement on the more common form. Perhaps there is some native Cyrillic user with as much wit as Marian Bantjes who can critique the alphabet in such a way as to inspire designers to take more risks in trying to develop a better typographic Cyrillic lowercase. But overall it works, except I find that all the extra letters required for Abkhaz are atrocious, just try designing a good looking 'K/ka with vertical stroke' (u+049C/D), it IS possible, but the 'Abkhasian C/che with descender' (u+04BE/F)(and even without the descener) is reprehensible. Abkhaz needs a refresh.

And where does IPA fit within this scheme, is it a script? Is it an orthography? Is it an extension of the Latin Alphabet? (I am guessing it's a bit of all of these things) Some of the 'letters' (as that is what they are for some African orthagraphies) could have been better planned such as the hooked f or all the hooked letters for that case. If new orthographies are going to continue to incorporate IPA symbols, some of these letters ought to be rethought. I personally think that a truly 'international' alphabet or script should be better designed and should be descriptive such as the Korean script or perhaps even Tengwar (I'm sure I'm the only one that would love to see that last suggestion fly!) IPA needs a refresh. Talk about a type battle! There's a challenge for a whole team of seasoned type designers.

And I haven't looked closely enough at it, but I think it'd be a challenge to make N'Ko look good.

paul d hunt's picture

It's interesting that the writing systems I find least well-conceived are those that are extensions of other more 'stable' writing systems. but perhaps this has to do with my own experience and frustration actually trying to design some of these characters.

Nick Shinn's picture

...just try designing a good looking ’K/ka with vertical stroke’...

This is only an issue if you're not willing to accept the odd deviation from uniformity. Consider the comma in Helvetica, or the tail of the "a" in Clarendon Bold--these characters have strokes which are atypically thin compared with anything else in the font. Or the ring accent in most fonts.

paul d hunt's picture

Nick, but think about screen fonts: I've had to hint this damn character before. To get this letter to read well at small sizes (on screen or otherwise) you have to create a very ugly glyph shape.

hrant's picture

> Talk about a type battle!

Indeed. Something I like to state now and again: Graphic design is to writing system design what poodle training is to anaconda taming.

> It’s interesting that the writing systems I find least well-conceived
> are those that are extensions of other more ’stable’ writing systems.

I agree, and it makes sense. And it casts a much needed bad light on all that "Latin is great because it's so extensible!" codswallop.

> This is only an issue if you’re not willing
> to accept the odd deviation from uniformity.

No, I believe in non-uniformity, but there's no reason to believe that ugly/ungainly structures must be the result.

Try extending the Latin alphabet with this:
http://www.rtc.org/pics/intro/intro_scn.jpg

hhp

hrant's picture

> Hrant, you said “Q”. Hehehe.

Oh, I just got the joke...
I just have to ask: how exactly did yours get a handle?! ;->

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

...but think about screen fonts:

Right. Even today, would nationalists affirming their identity through alphabet reform consider how the confetti of diacritics and modifying marks attached to letters might display on screen at low resolution?

But if that is a problem, why not just drop the accents below a certain screen size? For instance, Slovak writing allows fewer diacritics than Slovak in print.

hrant's picture

Nah, just use Morse Code: it works
great at 2 PPEM - including leading!

hhp

Joe Pemberton's picture

Hrant wrote: What’s absurd is such extreme relativism.

A refreshing statement.

The mashup of Arabic numerals and Latin letters in western alphabets is an awkward one. To this day, the first face I designed is unfinished because I couldn't create figures that didn't detract from what I had established with the alphabet. Obviously there are piles of type that have succeeded at this challenge, but you don't feel that until you try to draw type and make it work.

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