DIACRITIC MANIFESTO

Each day, I get about billion emails, newsletters, and Web updates about new fonts. The authors blag on about how they spent 60 years making a new font, and how their one in particular is the best thing since sliced bread. But, if we try to use their font for anything more than a simple ABCD, we're out of luck.

The football World Cup's on the TV, one of the guys running around on the pitch is Nedved, but that's not really his name. Football players have top notch kits with loads of features, but did anyone care to pay attention to whether or not the player's name is spelled correctly? Apparently not. These so far unsuccessful attempts to abolish diacritics have about as much chance of success as if we tried to get the Brits or Germans to reform their grammar and to write everything phonetically.

All of these typeface designers and typographers spent vast amounts of time learning their profession. Now, in their prime, they directly affect fonts as a means of communication, but by the look of things don't seem to be bothered much about responsibility towards the media, or a reader who might be trying to get information in adequate quality.

We quickly got used to computer fonts having loads of language variants of operating system fonts, but the obvious purpose seems to escape many. The whole circus around "Web-fonts" and other cool Internet tidbits is really laughable when you realize that in the end, you won't be able to display and view the thing correctly. Let's openly admit that 256 characters of the basic font set won't save the planet. The underlying principle of what they were creating got lost on the geezers who defined it back then, and instead of creating a meaningful language unit, they shoved in loads of nonsensical mathematical characters that no-one knows how to use anyway. The technical options have moved on quite a bit, but half of Europe would probably still rather use the Windings picture font.

Doing business in these conditions is a bit like selling a British Rover car in Warsaw. Looking inside, it looks like the steering wheel's missing, and when someone does actually find it, it's on the wrong side. The only difference is that someone in Warsaw can change the fonts; we can hardly do that with the Rover. This situation is miles away from the ideal universe where someone would sell a font and someone else wouldn't have to do the language customisation for a different language in order to print the poster for the play Polish Blood for example so that the client would be happy. The people in Warsaw don't give a toss about the fact that I can't even say Hello in Polish, all they're concerned about is that they can read the play programme in their theatre.

Radek Sidun