Ubuntu 10.10 is just around the corner. In this version some preliminary signs of Ubuntu’s design efforts are slowly showing, although there’s still a vast amount of work to do. One of the ‘new’ things in 10.10 as far as the user experience is concerned is the new Ubuntu font.
I am very happy to see Hellenic supported from this early stage. As others have commented however, there are considerable problems with the typeface. The font has several controversial features, like the ‘short chi’ glyph and the weird gamma among others.
The short chi (χ) is not really a problem as far as I am concerned, although it is a departure from the norm. Most modern well-designed hellenic fonts have a chi with a descender. In ‘classical’ hellenic typography chi almost always has a descender; there are, however, a few good examples of contemporary designs with ‘short’ chi (Gotham Greek by Cannibal Fonts — one of the premier foundries in Greece — comes to mind) and I believe it’s acceptable in a modern, informal typeface.
Gamma (γ), on the other hand, as found in the ‘final’ version of the font included with the Ubuntu 10.10 RC, is poor and betrays the ignorance of the designers with respect to hellenic type; it reminded me of Myriad Pro; a beautiful roman typeface (recently popularised because its adoption by Apple as the company’s corporate font) that has been butchered in its hellenic version.
There are other, less important, issues with the hellenic glyphs in the font, but even those I mention above are enough to demonstrate the intricancies involved in designing hellenic fonts (esp. by people who don’t have a feel for the language).
Turning roman fonts, even excellent ones, to hellenic is a tough job, even for skilled professionals with many years of experience with the language, the alphabet and hellenic typography. Many of the good hellenic fonts have been designed by font designers outside of Greece and have been iteratively improved over the span of many years before they reached a level of comparable quality to their roman counterparts.
I appreciate the effort by Maag and Canonical and I really love the fact that the language is included as a first-class citizen in the new Ubuntu font.
I also think, however, that you need to get a better understanding of Hellenic typography as well as — seemingly — better advice, before the ‘Ubuntu’ font can claim that it is a well-designed hellenic font.