Unicode just keeps getting bigger

Unicode, the standard for consistent encoding of the world’s writing systems, is a bedrock of modern multilingual typesetting and web design. February saw a major update to this standard to Unicode 6.0. The update adds a further 2,088 characters taking the total to an awe inspiring 109,384.

The update adds 222 additonal CJK Unified Ideographs and 603 additional characters for African language support. It also includes the new Indian rupee sign, designed last year. Three scripts are supported for the first time: Mandaic, Batak and Brahmi. New blocks of characters are also added for areas such as playing cards, transport symbols and alchemical symbols.

Of course, the fact that these characters have been added to the standard does not mean that fonts exist to support them yet but some, such as the rupee sign, are likely to find swift adoption.

A full description of the additions, and complete character tables for the entire standard, are available online at unicode.org

Designing for multilingual print: starting points for foreign language versions

When a document is to be produced in several foreign languages,* it is all too common for the English to be produced first and this document translated. If you are starting a multilingual design project, what are the simple considerations to help your design work?
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Getting started with German typesetting

German is an important global language, with approximately 120 million native speakers and perhaps 80 million more who speak it as a second language. It is the main language of Germany and Austria, with a significant part of the Swiss population also having it as a mother tongue. There are also noticeable pockets of German speakers in Namibia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. In fact, German is one of the nine recognised regional languages of Namibia. There are some variations from country to country: for instance, a specific translation may be required for Swiss German.

The German language is particularly important in business, as Germany is an important member of the G8 and the European Union. The economy is the fourth largest in the world (by nominal GDP) and the fifth largest by purchasing power parity. Crucially, Germany has become a goods import/export powerhouse, being the world’s second largest exporter and third largest importer. In other words, Germany exports more than the entire USA. In fact, its exports amount to more than those of France and Japan put together. Going the other way, Germany’s colossal imports are greater than those of the UK and France combined. So, in business terms, German is important but what’s the deal when it comes to German typesetting?
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Arabic typesetting: get it right (to left)!

Arabic is one of the world’s great languages.

The Arabic language has a long cultural history, with Classical Arabic stretching back to least the 4th Century. Arabic typesetting and calligraphy also has a long history, as described in this excellent ilovetypography article, “Arabic calligraphy as a typographic exercise”.

Today, it is spoken as a first language by 280 million people. Geographically it is a key language in a wide belt stretching from Morocco across north Africa via Libya and Egypt through the Middle East to the Gulf states in the East such as UAE and Oman. Arabic is an official language in 26 countries, the third most frequent behind English and French.

So it is no surprise that Arabic frequently crops up in multilingual typesetting projects. Yet, for those used to other languages, Arabic typesetting contains some stumbling blocks.
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