Being derived directly from minuscule /e, the sans serif Schwas, upper and lower case, almost design themselves, but the serifed versions are problematic. Lacking much in the way of precedent, I’ve explored a variety of strategies, which I’d like to share for discussion. I’d be interested in hearing from any native Azeri speaker or people familiar with reading that or other languages which use the character—and in seeing how other type drawers have designed it.
(The type specimens feature the name of Azerbaijan’s president, in caps and U&lc.)
1. Scaled and rotated minuscule /e. Font: Pratt Display, a newspaper face.
The capital /Ə looks perfect in the U&lc name, echoing the /e, but in all caps does it not perhaps looks a little out of place, as if it has strayed from a unicase font? This is the nature of the beast: should one accommodate the majuscule or the minuscule style for the cap /Ə, or try to compromise?
2. Divergent majuscule and minuscule style. Font: Goodchild, a book ‘Jenson’.
The capital /Ə has a serif, like a flipped /C, and its crossbar aligns with that of /E etc. The lower case /ə is a rotated /e, but it doesn’t look quite right when its large open counter is compared with that of /a, which presumably has the correct ductus; perhaps I should have tweaked it a bit. Is the different angle of cap/lc crossbars a bit much, or cool?
3. Divergent majuscule and minuscule style. Font: Bodoni Egyptian.
The same tack as 2, but the quite different ductus of /a and /ə makes for a better effect, and the horizontal crossbar of /e and /ə is not as disruptive as Goodchild’s Venetian /e and /ə.
4. Cap style applied to both cases. Font: Scotch Modern text cut.
(The opposite strategy to 1.) I determined that the lower case form looked too odd as a cap, so although based on a rotated /C, I added a serif. Then I made the lower case echo this, which is consistent with /S to /s; but in retrospect, I wonder.
5. Divergent majuscule and minuscule style. Font: Richler, a book face.
Here the similar ‘superelipse’ form of /Ə and /ə serves to harmonize the schwas, despite /Ə having a centred crossbar, and a serif, unlike /ə. However, for the same reason, /a and /ə may be too similar in body text.
6. Divergent majuscule and minuscule style. Font: Buslingthorpe, a tiny-x’d transitional.
The difference in angle of stress between the cases makes radically different treatments of the schwas appropriate. This should apply to more normally proportioned transitional styles. The transitional style of Latin typeface seems well suited to Azerbaijani.
7. Fanciful. Font: Fontesque.
With the exception of #1, I’ve adapted the upper case /Ə to cap style rather than upsizing the /ə. It’s not necessarily the best method, but it’s what I’ve gravitated towards up to now.