* And what in the world is an Ogonek? *
Do I place the yen before or after the amount? Is there another use for the at-symbol besides email-addresses? Which characters does one need for Turkish? And what in the world is an Ogonek?
To meet the requirements of global communication, every modern operating system facilitates the access to a great variety of scripts: Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Chinese, Braille, to name just a few. There's also a huge number of special characters such as dingbats, copyright characters, currency symbols, mathematical characters and punctuation.
Just the pre-installed system fonts on a PC confront the user with thousands of unfamiliar characters. Many users stand helpless in the face of such vast numbers of characters, they simply lack the knowledge about the various meanings and typographically correct use of all those "new" characters.
decodeunicode is an independent platform for digital type culture, conceived and developed under the lead of professor Johannes Bergerhausen in cooperation with the designer Siri Poarangan at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz. The project is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and has the objectives of creating a basis for fundamental typographic research and facilitating a textual approach to the characters of the world for all computer users. That way, expert knowledge can be systematically collected and made accessible to the general public.
The wondrous multiplication of characters in the computer in the last couple of years went mainly unnoticed. The technical background of this silent typographic revolution is called Unicode. This character encoding standard is already established as a world standard and today, it encodes over 50.000 characters on its first and already accessible plane.
Alas, the communication media of the non-profit organisation Unicode Consortium are directed exclusively at IT-specialists for multilingual text processing. And as important as the published code charts and technical descriptions are for programmers, they are unsuitable as a guidance for the average user.
decodeunicode places itself as an open science project that specifically builds upon the participation of online users. The submission of information follows the WIKI-principle that's been used successfully for years by the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. At decodeunicode.org every interested keyboarder can comfortably do research, write new articles or edit those already existing. For quality assurance the entries for the various character sets are additionally monitored by moderators that can delete entries if required.
The interface of the project's website is self-explanatory and focuses on individual characters. The characters of the Basic Multilingual Plane hold an absolutely new potential for typesetting and design. There's a lot to discover amongst convoluted arabic ligatures, complex chinese ideographs and german umlauts.
www.decodeunicode.org is online since May 2005 with images and names of over 50.000 characters.