Need a font with Welsh accents?

What do you do when your font doesn’t have Welsh accents?
Perhaps I’ve found the answer.

I hit upon an interesting design challenge recently when working on a project for Cardigan Castle in Wales. I thought it might be a good idea to write about it here, in case the information helps anyone else who comes across this same headache.

Welsh accents

The guidebook we were creating for the castle was to be produced in both English and Welsh languages and I was already aware that the Welsh language features letters which have an accent above them. I didn’t think this would create any problems at first as the client had told us which font they used in their branding and I could see it had the necessary accents from their previous work. I already have the font in my collection and so set about creating the document.
It wasn’t until we started to work with the Welsh translations that we realised there was a problem. When we checked the first draft we noticed that accents above some letters were missing. After closer examination we realised that my version of the font did not, for some reason, have all of the necessary accents.

It took some time and quite a bit of research to find out where the problem lay.

Font types

To explain what happened, you need to know a little about fonts. In my dim and distant career in print and design we would tend to favour ‘postscript’ fonts, as these were usually more reliable in their design. Kerning and the range of characters available made postscript fonts the choice of the professional. Predictably, these fonts were rarely free to download, but they were worth the cost for their ease and versatility. By comparison, ‘TrueType’ fonts were often free to use. The price you paid was apparent in the poor design, kerning and character range of these fonts, so professionals would often steer clear.

Then, more recently, came OpenType fonts. These were far more versatile, comprehensive and easy to use across various platforms and software. If, like many designers, you’ve been collecting different fonts for years you’ll likely have a selection of each type in your armoury.

Suitable font for the Welsh language

But back to our Welsh font problem. As it turns out, our font was an older postscript version which did not support all of the characters we needed for the Welsh language. This was perplexing, as we knew the client had used this font before, but how? It took a little while and a fair amount of research to work out that we needed the OpenType version to get the accents we needed.

The OpenType version solved the problem for us. By converting the copy from one font type to the other, we were able to flow it into the artwork, accents and all. For the record, the font we were using was called Lato and you can download the OpenType version here. The OpenType version was only created in 2013, so if you have an older version, it probably won’t be fully Welsh compatible.

Lato apparently means ‘summer’ in Polish. It’s a beautifully simple, friendly looking and easy to read sans-serif font and we like it a lot. Thanks to latofonts.com, we were able to produce a beautiful dual-language guidebook. There’s a donate button on the website.

So, if you’re having a problem finding a font containing Welsh accents, hopefully this blog will help.

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