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As mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently working on Cyrillic designs for News Cycle, my open font revival of ATF News Gothic.  The sheer number of additional glyphs you need for a full alphabet is daunting (or at least it seems so when it’s an alphabet you don’t natively use).  I don’t have access to high-res versions of any of the commercial News Gothics, and the ATF face included only Basic Latin, so I find myself spending a lot of time trying to make the Cyrillic characters both relate to the Latin and be interesting on their own. Several of the web samples I’ve seen for commercial News Gothics look extremely geometric — and while NG is pretty spartan, the original Latin glyphs have their share of subtlety, and duplicating it is the challenge for the new characters.

For example, most of the commercial News Gothics with Cyrillic support seem to use completely rectangular descenders, like so:

rectangular descenders

To me, that looks dull as dirt, so I’ve tried to add a tiny bit more nuance to News Cycle’s:

curved descender

It could be entirely inappropriate; I don’t know.  I do have some alpha-testers … presumably they’ll tell me.  Speaking of which, if you’d like to be one, please let me know (or just grab the SFD from the Launchpad project page and start filing bugs; either method is fine).

Anyway, what I meant to write about was the fact that because adding a new alphabet is mentally demanding, I’ve found myself taking frequent breaks to add other characters — lots of mathematical symbols (more on that in another post), plus a whole set that just interest me for one peculiar reason or another.

samaritan source

Take U+214f, for example.  This is (officially) the “Samaritan source” symbol.  And I can find no documentation on what it means. My dad happens to be an antiquities guy, with specific expertise in 1st Century Christianity, and he’s never heard of it.  Nor have his buddies who study other (earlier and later) Centuries, for that matter.  It *seems* to be a bibliographic reference character, but why anyone would need a specific symbol to indicate that a source is Samaritan in origin, but not a symbol for, say, Essene sources, Gnostic sources, or what have ya, is a mystery.

recycle - cloud

U+2672 and U+2601 are simpler.  I added both to work with the open microblogging site The former is the “recycle” symbol, which uses in place of the comparatively wordy “RT” used by Twitter when you repeat someone else’s notice.  Saving one precious character is a lot when 140 is the upper bound.  The latter is the “cloud” symbol, and it came up only because Platinum-Level Microblogger Bradley Kuhn uses it for shorthand whenever discussing/lamenting “cloud computing.” In fact, he commented that in most fonts, the U+2601 character most closely resembles a steaming pile of dog crap, which might be appropriate for discussing cloud computing, but is a bad representation of “cloud” otherwise.  I like Kuhn’s microblog stream a lot (talk about squeezing a lot into 140 characters), particularly his ability to live-blog conferences, so I wanted to make a decent cloud glyph.

metal ftw

Then there is the n-umlaut; it’s not defined in Unicode “proper” (and I air-quote when I say that), but you do need it to discuss the movie or hypothetical band Spinal Tap. In News Cycle, n-umlaut is U+E211 … in the Private Use Area (PUA).  Try saying that code point out loud if you wonder why I chose that location.

such that

Finally, I’ve added an obscure and (apparently) controversial mathematical symbol at U+E210, also in the PUA. It is the “such that” symbol, which is used in proofs (akin to the existential quantifier ∃ or the therefore-symbol ∴, it just replaces notational text — it’s not a variable, operator, function, or anything). The trouble is, not only is it *not* in Unicode, but half of the mathematicians you talk to don’t even know what it is.  By which I mean “they don’t use it in practice, so they assume no one else should either.”  Typically when someone asks about it on the internets, they get told “no, that’s the ‘contains as an element’ symbol; you’re confused.”  What a tragedy.  There is documentation of its existence, of course. We just have to educate people.  For the time being, News Cycle might be the only font that includes it.  Tell your friends; it’s the only way well ever right this injustice.

Anyway, there’s more Cyrillic to come (particularly letterspacing), so I’m sure I’ll add to this list as time goes by.

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