Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Expert characters and analphabetic symbols, part of Foundations of Typography.
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What is an Analphabetic symbol? Analphabetic symbols are typographic marks that are not part of the basic character set, and they are better known as dingbats. If someone called me a dingbat, I would say thank you, I'm a big fan of dingbats. The original meaning of the word dingbat dates back to at least 1880. It's also known as a printer's ornament or a printer's character. Dingbats are some of the most interesting typographic symbols. There are entire fonts devoted to dingbats.
Thanks to Hermann Zapf, pretty much everyone who has a computer is familiar with the font Zapf Dingbats. There are thousands of fonts that just contain dingbats, some of which are highly illustrative and specific, not to mention entertaining. Dingbats or analphabetic symbols are one category of expert character sets. Expert character sets are made up of anything that is not generally included in the basic character set. The basic character set contains upper and lowercase, numbers and punctuation.
Other common examples, of expert characters are alternate character sets which may include variations on swash caps or specialized ligatures. There can also be other versions of letters, such as these elaborate flourishes from Zapfino and Bickham Script. These must be used with care and very sparingly, but these expert characters can add a special touch to your design. Other expert characters such as mathematical symbols and scientific symbols maybe included in some fonts glyph sets, or they may be contained in separate expert character sets.
You can see that expert characters are not only useful, but essential. The next time somebody calls you a dingbat you can say, really, I am flattered. Which dingbat did you mean? And then you can educate them about the real meaning of dingbat.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion