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Speculative glyph design

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Riccardo Sartori

Apparently, more than a year ago, the Bitcoin sign was added to the Unicode Standard: ₿.

The symbol started as a logo, and is arguably rather ugly as a currency sign.

But what irks me the most is the use of the capital |B| as a base: B is the symbol for byte, not bit.

So, in a bit (!) of speculative glyph design, let’s imagine a world in which it would make sense to add a Bitcoin sign to Unicode, and in which it would be done with some thought.

Here are my offerings:


They could be seen as the same design in different typeface styles, or variations on the same idea.

There is a chance it already exists as an alchemical symbol or IPA extension, and I reckon it has similarities with the newish Russian ruble (₽) and Turkish lira (₺) signs, but I don’t dislike the hint of a |t| in the sans serif variation.

So, anyone else would like to engage in some pointless speculative glyph design?


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Andre Simard typedesign

Even if it you drew a good design, as a graphic designer, I prefer using caps B with one or two bars, as the dollar, yen or pound sign $, ¥, £. Those currency are mostly used with numbers ($45, 450 £, 300 ¥) which would be more difficult to see in a body text if it was draw using lower case letter. You talk about the newish Russian ruble (₽ ), to my point of view it is drawn on a capital letter, same for the Turkish lira.

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Ralf Herrmann
10 hours ago, Riccardo Sartori said:

But what irks me the most is the use of the capital |B| as a base: B is the symbol for byte, not bit.

That doesn’t bother me a byte, I mean bit. 😉
₿ is a unique symbol with its own unique codepoint with its own defined definition: Bitcoin. I don’t see the meaning “Byte” in there, such as I don’t see the unit “energy” in 10 €, “liters” in 10 £ and so on. 

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Riccardo Sartori
2 hours ago, Ralf Herrmann said:

I don’t see the unit “energy” in 10 €, “liters” in 10 £ and so on. 

Those, to me, are unrelated examples as they did not contain, and their names aren’t derived from, a preexisting unit.

And, by the way, the pound sign (from the Latin libra) uses a script capital |L|, while the symbol for litre uses a lowercase script |l|: ℓ. 

My grievance was about choosing a meaningful starting point for the sign. That doesn’t automatically mean it will work out well, as demonstrated by your second example: before I saw someone pointing out that Adobe choose an uncial |E| as the model for the euro sign, I (and most people I know) have always seen it as a crossed |C|.

In any case, aside from the bytecoin (sorry, Bitcoin) sign, I wondered about any other example of speculative glyph design one can think of.

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Riccardo Sartori

@Andre Simard typedesign Good point about most currencies using signs based on uppercase letters, which would help distinguish a cent (¢) from a colón (₡), for example, but it’s not always the case (pun intended).

The fact that they are mostly used with numbers, however, doesn’t hold for me. For one, there are plenty of lowercase based signs and symbols used with numbers, and because of that they could be easier to distinguish from the surrounding figures. Also, my design has an ascender, so it would sit against lining numerals at least as well as the Turkish lira sign does.

Lastly, a |B| with just one implied vertical stroke instead of the two present in the encoded sign would be a less busy design, and probably an improvement.

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  • 2 weeks later...
George Thomas

Of your two samples, I don't like the first one because at first glance my impression was
"religious icon". The second one I don't care for at all.

In my fonts I include the Bitcoin approved design (the Bookman-like B with two bars) as an
alternate. The main Bitcoin glyph I always make face-sensitive. I adhere to the two bar model since I don't want any confusion with the Baht currency symbol.

Regarding the Euro, Adobe had nothing to do with the ultimate design. From Wikipedia, this:
The eventual winner was a design created by a team of four experts whose identities have not been
revealed. It is assumed that the Belgian graphic designer Alain Billiet was the winner and thus the
designer of the euro sign.

The official story of the design history of the euro sign is disputed by Arthur Eisenmenger, a former
chief graphic designer for the European Economic Community, who claims he had the idea prior to the European Commission.

Inspiration for the € symbol itself came from the Greek epsilon (ϵ) — a reference to the cradle of European civilization — and the first letter of the word Europe, crossed by two parallel lines to ‘certify’ the stability of the euro.

Also from Wikipedia, regarding the litre symbol, the lowercase script /l is pretty much not used in the US, Canada and Australia. In those countries the uppercase /L became the standard in 1979. The lowercase script /l is still used in one or two English-speaking European countries, along with wide use in Japan and South Korea. I always include the lowercase script /l for completeness. Draw it once, use it forever.

As for speculative glyph design, I leave that for designers with more time. I will work with

  • very interesting! 1
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