Fonts for Contemporary Use

In a blog post that I wrote for work today, I had occasion to use an interrobang as part of a title. Hooray! A chance to exercise some pointless effort in pursuit of typographical correctness.

But chasing down that obscure character led me to thinking about an opportunity that still exists for all the type designers out there. Does any commercially-available font out there do a good job of anticipating modern uses of text like smileys and texting shortcuts, and create styled characters or ligatures for them?

We will increasingly see marks like 🙂 and “B4” and “OMG” showing up in print or in styled text online, and that means we should have appropriate typography to represent these words and phrases as our language evolves. This, of course, would also require a Unicode character representation to be added for common smilies, just as one was added for the Euro symbol when that currency was introduced.

The Euro mark also offers us an opportunity to avoid a mistake made when that symbol was introduced. The familiar € mark was unfortunately introduced more as a logo than as a character, meaning designers were initially discouraged from tailoring the presentation of the symbol for appopriate display in the context of a particular font.

With smileys, and especially with new text ligatures from characters that would never have been paired up in the past, we have the chance to see font designers interpret these new parts of the language in the context of type designs that may have existed in some form for centuries. That promises to be fascinating!

Of course, I’m far from an expert about type, let alone about design in general, so maybe someone’s already doing good work in this realm, and it’s just escaped my notice. Either way, I look forward to finding out when I’ll be able to use typographically elegant OMGs and ;)s on my blog.