This is a question I have asked myself many times, I've never gone into it.
When you are designing a typeface conceived as all-uppercase, which would be the best way to handle the lowercase slots? I recall that in the early stages of digital typography it was not uncommon to find either fonts with duplicated uppercase letters in place of the lowercase ones, or with the lowercase glyph slots left blank.
Clearly the first solution is better from a technical viewpoint, but I was still wondering whether it would be good in technical terms, as it basically states that a form supposed to be lowercase is uppercase instead.
As an alternative, I have seen digital typefaces which use the lowercase slots to provide the most important alternatives for uppercase forms. This could be handy in a typeface like the one that I am designing, where I have more than a single alternative for some letters, and the more important could be mapped in the lowercase, but I am still unconvinced by this practice.
What do you think about the topic, both on a theoretic technical side and from your past personal experience?
Many thanks in advance for all the possible advice, it will be much appreciated.
It’s an added value to users, in that, apart from mixed case usage, it gives them the equivalent of two matched optical sizes, which is useful for decorative and display work, which is what “monocule” typefaces are usually designed for. The old “titling” designation.
Phiz Shadow and Parity (a unicase design).
The scaled down upper case glyph is shown for comparison on the far right of each example.
I appreciate the questions and replies to consider for the future.
But how about the lowercase slots? Would you leave them empty or have a (possibly automated?) duplication of the uppercase in the lc slots?
So, assumed you agree in using just sets to provide letter variants, for an all-uppercase font do you think I should leave the lowercase slots empty?
If you simply leave the lowercase characters unmapped, then if the font is applied to lowercase or mixed case text the users will see a lot of /.notdef/ glyphs.
You are (again) thinking as a text face designer, which is better than the the other way around, but best is to admit the existence of both worlds. Many designers working in display acquire and select a font they like for a specific reason, for example that it has two versions of caps; they then either apply it to a very short text they know will accommodate that reasoning (or can easily be modified to) or they simply type in it.
Standardization can stifle culture too.
This is because I will have a limited number of Stylistic Sets, not coinciding univocally with the variants (i.e. a single letter variant could fit more than a Stylistic Set).
Would it be better to have them named as Character Variants, i.e. 'cv01' – 'cv99', or is the Character Variant feature geared towards the solutions of lexical contexts?
So surely not the average user (or even designer) applying the font to a pre-existing text to see how it fits. In my case, the choice would pre-date the design work.
The other thing to bear in mind is that this hack only works for one variant form per letter, so if you have more than one variant glyph you’re still going to need some other character-to-glyph access mechanism such as OpenType was designed to provide.
In Glyphs, I can place the UCs as components into the lc spots, and then add them to the same kerning classes to ensure results are identical. (This avoids the "insufficient character set" problem Ray mentioned.) Is there a reason NOT to do it that way?
In Glyphs, you just delete the lowercase and run Glyph > Update Glyph Info that will automatically assign the (missing) lowercase codes to the uppercase.
My more important question now is whether it would be OK to have the alternatives as as Character Variants (instead of generic numeric names, as they will not coincide with Styilistic Sets), i.e. 'cv01' – 'cv99', and I seem to get it can be.