I wrote this post about the Indian rupee some years ago but never published it. Given the feeling of time suspended brought on by COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders (and suspension of normal life in general), I decided to publish rather than discard it.
My initial motivation was to come up with something interesting to say using combinations and permutations in meaning of the words “economics”, “typography”, “development”, and “current”. I DO love typography!
Currency of developing economies
Most countries have distinct identification symbols for their currencies, but until 2011, there was no official currency sign for the Indian rupee. Only `Rs’ was used to represent it. India shared the abbreviated form of the rupee with Pakistan, Nepal, Seychelles and Sri Lanka.
India’s finance ministry organized a public competition to design a new symbol for the rupee. The successful designer was awarded Rs 2.5 lakh, but had to surrender the copyright to the government of India. The symbol chosen was
which is U+20B9 in Unicode and ₹ in HTML. It is a blend of the Devanagri ‘Ra’ and Roman ‘R’.
The symbol is not printed or embossed on currency notes or coins. Among currencies with distinctive identities, only the British pound sterling symbol is printed on its notes.
Typographic developments in currency
The currency of Russia is the ruble. It had no official symbol, and didn’t acquire one until several years after India did. According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian Ruble Gets a Symbol:
The idea of creating a symbol for the ruble to rival the $, € and £ signs emerged in the 1990s. The central bank said it had been inspired by the European Union’s introduction of the euro. But after Russia defaulted in 1998, talk of creating a symbol waned…
Russia decided that an official symbol for its national currency would encourage the use of the ruble in international trade and as a potential reserve currency. The ruble sign (₽) is a sans-serif Cyrillic letter Р (R in the English alphabet) with an additional horizontal stroke.
Currency developments in typography
Four Adobe type families now include the Rupee symbol in Indic fonts:
…the Indian rupee symbol is quickly gaining widespread use within India. In order to accommodate requests, the type team at Adobe has added the rupee symbol to the following typeface families: Minion Pro, Myriad Pro, Courier Std and Letter Gothic Std.
Microsoft required merely eight years to add support to Windows for the Indian rupee.
Typography for developing economies
Google web fonts now include support for Indic fonts.
Current developments in typography
An HTML standard for typography and WOFF are finally supported.
Economics of typography development
Only open fonts are license free. Others often have complicated licensing requirements, especially due to how they are sold. This includes bundling with other products. Adobe has its hands full with font development, especially version upgrades for typefaces:
Adobe is in a rather different position than most foundries, as most of the copies of our fonts are licensed as part of application software bundles or from our reseller partners. And virtually nobody actually registers their fonts. So we have no clue who the vast majority of our legitimate users are.
Sadly, the Adobe typblography blog has since been discontinued with the acquisition and merger with Typekit.