PSA: A guide on how to draw a proper capital Eszett (ẞ)

Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,941
edited February 15 in Technique and Theory
Hi everyone,
I've decided to gather my thoughts and recommendations on how to draw a functional and handsome capital eszett in an illustrated webpage. I'd be happy to hear your opinions!
Work in progress: I intend to add some examples of good and bad designs found in Google Fonts. (Unfortunately, it's mostly bad examples at the time of writing...!)
Cheers, Christian


  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,398
    Nice work Christian. I particularly found the section on arrangement of contrast helpful, and I am first in line supporting the jettisoning of the "city" nomenclature. 

    For the "serif" at the top right discussed at the very end, that form mostly calls to my mind the spur on lowercase /e in types like Nicolas Jenson's. I'd probably be most inclined to employ it in faces like that. Do you see that as a sensible parallel?
  • TimAhrensTimAhrens Posts: 46
    edited February 16
    Thanks for the effort! That’s a very useful resource.
    Just to put my two cents in: After a few years of reading the capital Eszett in real-life, and designing a few myself in a range of styles, it is clear to me that it must have a top-left corner, otherwise it will not look (enough) like a capital letter. In other words, the Dresden and Leipzig archetypes – domed and half-domed, in the new taxonomy – are unacceptable to me.

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,941
    edited February 16
    Thanks guys!

    Tim, I disagree with that. It’s like saying the A must have a flat roof to work. Flat-roofed A’s do exist, and they do improve texture (at the cost of A-ness), but they don’t fit most typefaces stylistically. 

    Note that I used to be actively opposed to rectangular roofs in eszetts, but have since accepted them as viable. I even include them in my upcoming list of good examples. 
  • TimAhrensTimAhrens Posts: 46
    edited February 16
    We will not be able to resolve this by means of a verbal discussion, no matter how smart our arguments are.
    I cannot prove or disprove anything, all I can contribute is to report what my personal judgement is, based on looking, not thinking, as a native speaker with a certain amount of experience in the field of type design.
  • By switching to this taxonomy and terminology, it follows that the process of OCRing a capital eszett should be called a sigmoidoscopy.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,144
    Tim and Christian—this is perhaps why I have usually gravitated towards the “Orangeville” style (flat and curved top), a compromise between your differing opinions.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,941
    edited February 16
    @Nick Shinn, I've added an extensive examples section now, with both role models and cautionary tales.
    @Craig Eliason, good point, I can certainly see the parallels between the top right serif on capital eszett and the Venetian /e/. I also feel the serifed foot of /U/ in typefaces like Perpetua comes with a similar energy.
  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited February 18
    ... the Venetian /e/. (?)
    The Venetian /e/...
    I'm sensing a gap in my otherwise semi-encyclopedic typographic knowledge. 

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,746
    edited February 18
    Venetian oldstyle typefaces are inspired by Jenson’s early roman type of the 1470s. The key defining characteristic of Venetian oldstyle vs later Aldine is the e having a slanted crossbar. It may (but does not have to) extend past the beak of the e, giving the letter what I might call a “nose.”

    Venetian oldstyle typefaces usually have relatively low thick/thin contrast (as traditional serif typefaces go), angled stress, and traditional oldstyle Trajan cap proportions (narrow BPSEFL and wide CDGHMNO).

    Some examples: Morris’ Golden Type, Centaur, Jenson, Berkeley Oldstyle, Brioso
  • Ah. so it has a name... i n t e r e s t i n g. I've even drawn a few of those.  :)
    (thanks Thomas)
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