Lingua: A collection of common ligatures.
When we released Lingua in 2003, few applications supported OpenType features and equally few users were aware of them. Discretionary ligatures? At the time, it was hard enough to find standard ligatures on the keyboard so anything beyond ‘fi’ and ‘fl’ was territory reserved for only the bravest graphic designers amongst us (or at least those with lots of extra time). Fortunately times have changed. Lingua exploits what is now standard OpenType fare – discretionary ligatures. Lots and lots of discretionary ligatures. So much so that one weight has two distinct sides: with the ligatures deactivated, one side is a hard geometric sans; with the ligatures activated, a near upright script springs to life.
While building Lingua we felt like a system for determining ligature selection needed to be set up. Sure, we wanted a lot of distinctive ligatures but we also wanted ligatures with enough letter pair frequency to transform common words. Following this logic, it was decided the nearly 200 ligatures of Lingua would be built using the most common letter pairs found in the English language.
But how to gather these letter pairs? While attempting to count letter pairs – by hand – our colleague Justin Bakse came to the rescue with a simple application. Ligature Counter tallies the frequency with which letter pairs occur in a given text and organizes the results in descending order of frequency. Freed from counting by the Ligature Counter, we then fed two weeks of feature newspaper articles and one novel into the application. The resulting letter pair combos were then averaged and used as a basis from which to design the Lingua ligatures.
But what about accuracy? The text fed into the Ligature Counter is only a snapshot of the English language. Letter combinations from other sources or languages will naturally return different results. Curiously however, the first 40 or so pairs are usually identical even from a range of sources. For instance, the incomplete sentence structures found in many emails return the same first 40 pairs as most newspaper articles.
Lingua is available in two weights: light and regular. The stroke difference between the two is visible but subtle enough to deserve special mention. The two weights aren’t meant to contrast one another. Rather, they’re designed to handle the same role but for varying conditions – ink spread and rough screen resolution have a tendency to push lighter fonts around so the Regular weight serves as a backup and vice versa. For this reason, the complete family of two fonts is priced at a 30% discount compared to our standard two-font family price.