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IJ done right

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Hey there,

I’m quite stucked at the moment with the letter/ligature IJ and ij. It seems there are plenty of different kinds how to draw it. The most of the classic sans-serif fonts like Helvetica, Univers and Meta for example just uses ordinary glyphs of I and J, put them together and abracadabra here is your ligature.

This seems are little bit to easy in my opinion. So I started a little research and what you see down here are my actual results. 




But now I’m a little bit confused right now. What is THE definitely form of IJ and ij. Is it better to ad points to the glyphs? Or without? Is the form of the ij correct in overall? It looks like a school form of the y.


Looking forward for your answers on this. :)


Kind regards


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Ralf Herrmann

While it is treated as one letter in an orthographic sense, the common way to typeset this letter combination in Dutch is by simply using the individual characters i & j and I & J. The Unicode ligature has not much relevance as far as I am aware and the people who read Dutch don’t expect a special ligature design. 

For logos, signage and things like that, the design might get a little more exciting. This Flickr group has nice examples:

For fonts its more about fixing possible problems of combining the two individual letters, especially in all-caps settings. This Underware article has some more explanations and samples: http://www.underware.nl/blog/2014/10/typesetting-the-dutch-ij/

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Hey Ralf,

thanks for your reply. Especially for the Flickr Group Link there are some very good examples of how to use the IJ/ij ligature in different ways. The underware article was already in my link list. :)

So, it seems that there is no right or wrong in this case, because of your argumentation that it’s more common to typeset this combination.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Loved the Underware article. The Dutch IJ issue is totally new to me. I find it kinda funny how what gave birth to "y" is still used as-is in one specific language and needs its own glyph :)  I mean, couldn't we just skip a couple centuries and use a straight y ?

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I find it kinda funny how what gave birth to "y" is still used as-is in one specific language and needs its own glyph 

As far as I know, the history of ij isn’t yet fully understood.
A connection to y is just a theory. See:

The German ß is an equally interesting case. Its surprising, that we know so much about ancient civilizations living thousands of years ago, but the origin of certain characters, used by millions of people every day, remain unknown.

Edited by Ralf Herrmann
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