Newbie interested in font design

Hello All!

Brand new here and I am involved in engraving and software design. I have written software that extracts the vector information from fonts and applies algorithms to make them suitable for CNC control. In the process, I have found that some fonts need a lot of "clean-up" which is not obvious in small point sizes.

I have a ton of questions but I will start off with just one:

I recently downloaded a highly stylized and ornate font, Rothenburg. I was surprised to see that the upper case I and J were identical, but suggest a J more than an I. The lower case forms were similar, as they are in most fonts, but not copies.

Is this practice common or is this just a quirky example? I wondered if I had a corrupted copy or the table entries were wrong, but every version (or copy) I have found so far shows the same thing. The font validator shows not errors, although that's no guarantee.

Before I pull the font file apart, I thought I would ask the experts and I would be curious to know how people here would modify the design of the I to differentiate it, but stay true to the theme.

I'm looking forward to your views,




  • 'I' and 'J' were in the distant past the same letter. In the 16th Century, some nit-picky scholars thought that since the letter had two forms and represented two sounds, why not separate them. I'm guessing that Dieter Steffmann was using an older model. Glancing through a reference book, all the German decorative samples I see have no 'J'. The 'J' form of 'I' was most commonly used as a terminal form, so Initial 'J' would be unnecessary pre 16th century.
  • Thank you Beau, I've definitely come to the right forum. If I understand correctly, then the name Johann  would have the initial character written as what we now call an I. Much to learn.

    However, you've sent me down another rabbit hole (or two).

    First, the .TTF I have, has a copyright claimed by Alex Winterbottom but a quick visual tells me they are the same product. I don't want to infringe on anyone's copyright, but both sources found so far appear to be open source or freeware.

    Second, can you point me to one or two reference books you speak of?

    Lastly, I took your cue about old type forms and did some digging. Almost all of them retain an upper horizontal stroke on the I, much like the J, but do differ in the main glyph length, with the J being longer and closer to the baseline. This is an easy edit to differentiate the two. I haven't decided if I want to alter the calligraphic flourishes, or just leave it be.

  • I haven't decided if I want to alter the calligraphic flourishes, or just leave it be.
    Include a different form for the J. People are simply confused by I and J being the same, as you were. J is now definitely a distinct letter of the alphabet.

    Having looked at the very sparse license agreement, I would be happy to edit the font but I would not interfere with the copyright notice. 
  • I agree, and I think that besides the length, I will take the time to differentiate it by changing more than the core form.

    It looks like original designer was Dieter Steffman so I have discarded the previous copy and downloaded his. I will retain his copyright notice.
  • I would second the motion of making a distinct 'J'. For what it's worth, I was looking at "Alphabets Decoratifs" published by L'Aventurine, 1995. For good examples of distinct 'I' and 'J' you could look at "Fractur mon Amore" by Judith Schalansky. That book has hundreds of great blackletter fonts. It seems that the most common solution is to give the 'J' the same form, but extend so that the tail is below the baseline (or below where the tail of the 'I' is. But there are several different takes in that later book.
  • Thanks for the titles, Beau.

    I think I am going to modify the arm on the "J" to make it less pronounced for the "I", for readability, as well as creating (or extending) the descender for the "J". I haven't looked at the tables yet, but I'm pretty sure it stays above the baseline presently.
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