The weird and wonderful world of Latin Extended B


on 4 October 2010

Below, Amelie Bonet from the Dalton Maag design team shares her thoughts:

Latin Extended B is a block (0180-024F) within the Unicode standard. With its utterly mundane name no-one would guess the wealth of shapes and glyphs. This specific and somehow obscure character set gathers 195 glyphs supporting a good mix of languages from Romania to Africa, via Runic.

Vew the complete Latin Extended B range in this PDF.

The letterforms included in Latin Extended B reflect the variety of the languages they support. There seems no logic behind the shapes when you compare simple glyphs, such as the Serbian diagraphs with those that have dangerously tricky loops and crossbars. Many of these more tricky glyphs were created on the fly by linguists simply to be able to transliterate the language using the Latin script. Occasionally, the structure of some of these glyphs seems a bit odd.

Mostly the glyphs in Latin Extended B are rooted within the Latin script but there many have strong Greek or Cyrillic influence; and there are the plain exotic shapes, too. It’s the blended designs, and those who are made up from scratch, that make it difficult to assess whether they are designed correctly or not. In-depth research helped us to be confident that the Latin Extended B glyphs not only fit with the rest of the font design but is also legible and usable within those language environments.

Let’s have a closer look at few glyphs of the Latin Extended B: The lower case b with a cross bar is a phonetic representation of ‘beta’; the lowercase crossed lambda is an Americanist phonetic notation, and the semi uppercase B with crossbar stands for a minority language in the former Soviet Union. The lowercase ‘esh’ is a glyph for an African archaic phonetic phoneme.

The loop is a favourite design feature of the Latin Extended B and appears as an addition to Latin glyphs. The letterforms below are used in Sinology. The design challange with the loop is to prevent it from becoming overbearing and distracting the reader from processing the information read whilst at the same time make it an integral element of the glyph. In fact, much of the work in Latin Extended B is a question of adapting and blending existing shapes and create a believable new form.

Although much in Latin Extended B can be regarded as a minority concern it is still important that it is done, and done at the highest quality. Because every language deserves good typography!

Amelie Bonet

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