AscenderFonts Designer's Toolbox September
Designer's Toolbox - September 2009
Ligatures & Diphthongs
Doctors use ligatures to connect tissue. Musicians use them to connect notes or musical phrases. A diphthong is a hard to describe sound made when pronouncing vowels. But every font with a standard Latin character set has yet another form of ligature and diphthong – what are they and how are they used correctly?
The ’f’ ligatures can, and most certainly should, be set as default behavior in applications by selecting this option in paragraph preferences. Diphthongs must be entered manually from the keyboard.
AE or Æ – What’s the Difference?
Œ is found in Latin as well as modern French (œuf – egg and cœur – heart) and is a different pronunciation than oe written as two letters (moelleux – soft).
Ligatures, by contrast, have no effect on pronunciation or meaning. They were created to correct letter fitting problems (figure 2). The lowercase f, which often extends far to the right side, often touches or disturbs the following ascending characters like i or l.
In a serif font, a set of ligatures is usually not really complete without adding double f combinations and additional ascending characters. (figure 3).
The OpenType font format gives today’s type designers the ability to create additional ligatures in fonts. The ever problematic Th letter combination is fixed in Bertham Pro™ (Th) and bars on tt become attached in Calibri™ (figure 5).
Taken further, the ligature may become more of an ornamental feature than one which simply corrects fitting. Goudy Forum™ Pro, Refrigerator™ Deluxe and Jana Thork™ Pro exemplify the artistic element that ligatures can offer (figure 6).
Historic (quaint) Ligatures
So use ligatures and dipthongs in their appropriate context: as letters of the alphabet, as solutions to fitting problems or as ornamental touches. Your documents will become more professional and artistic as a result.
Next month we’ll dig around for more useful items in the ol’ toolbox : sorts, dingbats, bullets, ornaments and icons.We’ll try to organize them into groups and discuss how to make them easier to use.