The way out from the diacritical misery

The basic means of communication across the whole of Europe has not changed over the last few decades. We consider the letter shapes of the Latin alphabet a done deal, with numerous descriptions, textbooks and manuals describing its construction being in existence. Unfortunately these publication only concern themselves with a few basic language areas; a comprehensive source which also includes extended languages is still missing.

By Radek Sidun

Foto: © Sebastian Weiß

For the inhabitants of Central Europe (we’re talking about approximately 110 million people), one can’t really say that life is a bed of roses in this respect. Saboteur attempts at getting rid of diacritics, caused by total ignorance of diacritic characters in commonly available typefaces from key foundries seem to be over. Nevertheless, Central Europeans still don’t really have reasons to be screaming for joy.

Polish designer Zofia Oslislo began her presentation by a portrait of the father of diacritic characters – Czech reformist Jan Hus. Hus dealt with reform of written Slavonic language for several years of his professional life. The date of his death, 1415, hints at the solutions being quite outdated. The demonic red portrait was almost a reminder to start dealing with the problem already.

The Insect Project will most certainly help in this respect. A comprehensive overview of diacritic characters created by prominent Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish contributors displays individual diacritic solutions from current sources in Central Europe.

TYPO-Berlin-2017-05-25-Sebastian-Weiß-Monotype-5676Foto: © Sebastian Weiß

A carefully composed summary of historical sources and development of specific Central European locations is an important publication. The planned extension for other languages also looks promising. The book is available for free in printed, PDF or ISSUU form and published under Creative Commons. This has become a readily available source and, for Central Europe, almost seems like a gift from heavens. Who was it that said that the best things aren’t free?

Zofia Oslislo

Zofia Oslislo

Designer, Cultural Researcher (Katowice)

Zofia Oslislo is a designer and culture researcher, currently working as Assistant Professor at the Department of Design, Academy of Fine Arts, Katowice, Poland where her teaching specialties involve typography, digital publication design and type design. In her creative work, she specialises in book design and data visualisation, while her cultural research interests focus around Upper Silesia, her favourite source of creative inspiration.