I'm designing a display typeface and have designed, for the Dutch capital IJ digraph, a ligature that combines the "I" and "J" to form what looks like a broken "U".

Here is a comparison of my "IJ" ligature against the distinct "I" and "J" glyphs:

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To give more context; the typeface I am designing is primarily a display face, with both upper and lower case in a number of weights:

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The inconsistent spacing between weights is by design so that they can be layered or stacked as you can see in this example:

enter image description here

From what I understand, the 'broken U' form is acceptable, but I'm not sure if this is an acceptable, and easily readable, form for regular use. Most real-world examples I have seen in this form have been in signage or logos which is causing my doubt on it's suitability; but my exposure to Dutch is basically non existent.

Would a native Dutch speaker be surprised to see this form of ligature in a normal passage of text? Or is it more of a stylistic alternative? I'm also interested in whether this would be more suitable for a display typeface (as this is), or would it be equally suitable in a text face?

Here are some examples of the "IJ" in use:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Note, Implementing the Dutch IJ digraph as a ligature is asking about the technical implementation (through OpenType features); here I'm specifically asking about the suitability of the ligature design itself.

  • The lowercase is spot on! Ah- give me an hour or so and I'll put up an answer with my suggestions.
    – Jongware
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:20
  • 1
    It is acceptable, the biggest museum of the country has it in their logo type: rijksmuseum.nl
    – allcaps
    Dec 31, 2016 at 19:30

1 Answer 1


That lowercase ij is awesome 😄

My first thought was, "wow, low bridge ahead" – but I had a hunch it was to fit in with the rest of descending characters, and so it does. You even use this on the lowercase f, which makes for a fine visual rhythm in - words, and it's a very nice change from the usual efs.

As for the capital: being a native Dutch speaker, I definitely prefer the left, condensed IJ ligature over the separate characters on the right. The letters are too disjoint there for comfort.

A point of criticism: I suppose you modeled it after the J, which would be where the high left end of the bowl comes from. In the standalone character, that serves a purpose: to "fill in" what otherwise would be a very large white rectangle on the left. But it's not necessary for the IJ!

I suggest moving the white space gap a bit lower so the impression of a misprinted U is lessened (not that this is a real danger – I really have to squint to make myself believe it's a U, and the serif on the leg already helps a lot). Although it could be nice to have these Js exactly the same, there is no pressing need, and in Dutch usage a slightly variant IJ is certainly no problem.

Here is a quick mock-up where I moved the white gap about half the way down to the bowl of the character:

A Bijzonder IJ indeed

In your own design, it's almost as high as the center of the E, and the J part is overpowering. I aligned it more with the bottom half of the E, somewhere in the middle.

Not about the IJ, but maybe you can look at that capital Z again. You avoided large white gaps in the other letters (I suppose the F is the proverbial exception), but the Z appears to be wider – visually. You can see a glimpse of that in the Black font version in the word zijde. It's a minor point; perhaps narrowing it will render the slanted stem too vertical.

  • 1
    Consensus seems to be that the hook on the J needs to be lower so I'll certainly take a look at that. You've mirrored my thoughts exactly on the Z by the way; it's not only visually wider but actually wider exactly because the stem looks too vertical otherwise! It's on my todo list :)
    – Cai
    Dec 31, 2016 at 8:44

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