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Verdana (the default font of a lot of sites for Windows users) has a symbol that looks like an n for pi:

Here is what it looks like

In Arial, another common font for windows, this looks as expected:

changed to arial

According to this comment:

That pi is intended for Greek language readers.

Is there any reason why the Verdana font is done differently to most?

To clarify which character I'm talking about, it is U+03C0 π GREEK SMALL LETTER PI (HTML π · π), see Wikipedia section on Pi Character Encodings

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    How are we supposed to know the answer to this question? It seems completely opinion based unless we're the creator – Zach Saucier Jul 12 '16 at 0:55
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    @ZachSaucier: Type design is not completely arbitrary, but mostly based on informed decisions that can be understood and explained by others. If this question were completely opinion-based, the job of a type designer would be pointless and we could leave the task of type design to random number generators. – Wrzlprmft Jul 12 '16 at 7:30
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    @Wrzlprmft yes but that does not mean the type designer can not go all out and drop the ball totally. Its not just once or twice that such things happen. Lately it seems I've been confronted with situations where I was perplexed as to what the designer* was thinking on a daily if not hourly basis. * designer in a larger context as in everything is designed, bit not everything is well designed. – joojaa Jul 12 '16 at 8:25
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    @joojaa: Sure, but then we can answer that the decision is bad by all standards and elaborate. Essentially this question is asking for a rationale and “there is no rationale” is a proper (though disappointing) answer to this. – Wrzlprmft Jul 12 '16 at 8:29
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    @joojaa: I am not claiming that “there is no rationale“ is the answer here. I am saying that if the type designer totally dropped the ball (which may or may not be the case here), this is still a reasonably answerable question. – Wrzlprmft Jul 12 '16 at 8:37
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It is within the possible shapes for the letter Pi capital or small. If you look at this youtube video you will see that this is what his small Pi looks like. So now the question is:

  • Are you designing a letter to write the greek language
  • or are you making a letter for use with math in a Latin text context.

Ideally, you'd do both. Given that Pi appears quite much in just the above context it might be considered a faux pas to use a design incompatible form just to satisfy math use.

It seems weird that a foreign language use can affect the form of your letters. How would you, hypothetically, feel if say a Chinese person told you not to write say w like that because its confused with one of their letters. In fact, many greek letters are idealised from true forms due to math needing them for identifiable highly stylised script forms. But that does not need to be the case.

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In my experience with the Greek language, lower-case pi is most commonly written with the top line extending to the sides in print. It may be written as the plain figure version that Arial is using, or the more stylized version commonly known from math, but rarely as a small capital pi. However, as noted in previous answers, this is still an acceptable form of the letter, especially in hand-writing.

The question still remains, why this choice was made. My theory is that for whatever reason, the designer of Verdana preferred to have similarities between certain characters between Greek and Cyrillic. As evidence, I present a couple of other characters where this pattern appears.

As a reference, here is the aformentioned Greek lower-case pi (U+03C0) and Cyrillic lower-case pe (U+043F) in Arial:

Lower-case Greek pi and Cyrillic pe in Arial

Here are the same characters in Verdana. The glyphs are identical:

Lower-case Greek pi and Cyrillic pe in Verdana

Here's Greek lower-case kappa (U+03BA) and Cyrillic lower-case ka (U+043A) in Arial:

Lower-case Greek kappa and Cyrillic ka in Arial

Here's the same two characters in Verdana. While the glyphs are not identical, kappa has a slight curve at the top, which for Greek is only commonly seen in serif fonts, whereas it is ubiquitous in Cyrillic:

Lower-case Greek kappa and Cyrillic ka in Verdana

Lastly, Greek lower-case tau (U+03C4) and Cyrillic lower-case te (U+0442) in arial:

Lower-case Greek tau and Cyrillic te in Arial

...and Verdana. In Arial, the roof of tau is less wide, which is common in Greek, whereas in Verdana, the glyphs of tau and te are identical. While this is easily justifiable from a readability point of view, this is nevertheless another example of a case where Verdana uses an identical glyph in Greek and Cyrillic when it's not obvious that it should:

Lower-case Greek tau and Cyrillic te in Verdana

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This the actual shape of a capital π. I have nothing to back this, but It's possible the designer wanted to go for legibility (one of Verdana's strong points) and therefore based their design of the lowercase π character on that of the capital Π. In this case, it's up for debate whether that was a good idea.

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    From a very quick look at the other Greek characters in Verdana it seems not to be the case with any others, only pi. – Cai Jul 12 '16 at 9:46
  • I'm talking about lower-case Pi, I have added clarification to the question. U+03C0 π GREEK SMALL LETTER PI (HTML π · π) – kristianp Jul 13 '16 at 1:05

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