For years, the debate about the correct form of one or another diacritical mark has been raging among type designers. Behind this debate, there is a desire to do better, to share good practices.
There is no absolute rule that would make illegible such a form not fitting within the aesthetic canons of such and such. It’s not an exact science, a simple matter of taste.
The typeface style, the way it is built, its stylistic references, the historical wink, the plausible context of use will all have more or less an impact on your design of this cedilla. In addition, practice, momentary obsession, desire to experiment with new forms will influence the result. An inexperienced designer will go through moments of trial and errors, but he will progress with each new design in his quest for the ideal shape. Because, as in any art, what makes the qualitative difference and its regularity in all styles is practice and experience.
The multiple lives of my cedillas
To come back to my illustration, I show here some of the cedilla’s that I have drawn between 1990 and 2021. There is a multitude of other possible forms, here are only mine, largely criticizable. Each time the design is the result of a compromise between the style of the typeface and the adequacy of this cedilla with the other diacritical signs present in the typeface. But also the extent of the family in widths, weights, x-height, and many other things.
In order to better describe my aesthetic choices, I have organized these cedillas into four categories:
→ White: open and simplified shape, ideal for use in small sizes and in low resolution. It’s actually a kind of mirrored ogonek. Purists will notice that the contrast of this type of cedilla is reversed.
→ Blue: calligraphic shape influenced by the nib pen, found in Garamond.
→ Green: form close to an acute accent, simplified to the maximum, which allows titling setting that require a tight line spacing.
→ Orange: traditional form which appears at the time of the Romain du Roi and that stabilizes with the Didots. In the 20th century, it becomes the default form.
Should we ban typefaces according to their cedilla?
Of course not. Even if your own criteria, the shape of the cedilla and diacritics could become a strategic issue in your artistic direction and typographic choices.
There are enough typefaces published each week, to let you choose the right typeface and its cedilla that meets your taste! I hope, however, that from now on, you will enjoy observing the cedillas.
By Jean François Porchez, Mai 2021. All rights reserved.