An amusing exercise

cerulean's picture

Hey all. I had this weird thought: If, in some bizarre alternate history, chatspeak abbreviations like "LOL" had become popular long before there were computers and character sets, they might have, over time, become new symbols, like "et" became "&" and "at" became "@". What might they look like?

John Hudson's picture

These are too typographic. I think you need to imagine a sign that evolves from a handwritten contraction, and then apply a typographic rationalisation. Quickly, and without benefit of a stylus:

cerulean's picture

Interesting; I think the emphasis might fall on the other end:

cerulean's picture

I like that one.

John Hudson's picture

Yes, that is nice. It reminds me of the contractions one finds in early printed books, which is a good sign.

Mark Simonson's picture

Maybe something like this:

Just a rough sketch, but you get the idea. It's a bit abstract, like an ampersand, but you can find the three characters in it if you look for them.

(This makes me think of the imaginary alphabet that Alessio Leonardi showed in his presentation at TypeCon this year. That was brilliant.)

John Hudson's picture

That looks lovely, Mark, but I wonder how well such a form would adapt to other contrast models? With a translation (broad-nib) model, you would get a lot more heavy strokes through the loops. As a form in this particular style, I think your 'rough sketch' is exemplary, but I'm left wondering what forms would be appropriate for e.g. a renaissance oldstyle type, a neo-grotesque sans serif, etc.

jupiterboy's picture

It's a funny exercise, because a good end result might not be identifiable in its evolved state. That's why I was throwing up some samples of early ideas, thinking they would be refined through collaboration.

Mark's work is very refined, and the balance is off in that the W anchors his character like the A anchors the @.

These would make funny t-shirts.

Mark Simonson's picture

Part of my thinking is that it would be like the at sign, which for a long time had pretty much only one model based on the 19th century modern style. The at sign has that hairline loop in the early model which leads to varying solutions when type designers try to adapt it to other styles. In some cases, like adapting the Euro to older face, you get to rewrite history in a sense, and try to imagine how it would have been done had it existed. The ampersand is a good example of the range of solutions which are possible, not all of which are fully embraced by type users (e.g., the original and later Univers ampersand).

Just for fun, here's a Jenson-like variation:

William Berkson's picture

>Jenson-like variation

Wow so elegant and authentic. If Jenson could come back I'm sure he would look at it and say wtf!?

.'s picture

For Barry Deck's "Eunuverse" typeface (1999), we designed a "www" ligature:

Mark Simonson's picture

There are some other typefaces with a www lig, aren't there? I think some of Christian Schwartz's have it.

(I would guess that John won't like the way you've encoded it... :-)

.'s picture

What is the Unicode index for a www ligature?

This was waaaaaaay back in 1999, when we used to use those random glyph slots for ligatures and other fun stuff, instead of random mathematical symbols: ∑ ∏ ∂ ∆ ¬ Ω √ ∫ ◊

Thanks to pop culture, we habitually included the π - thanks to Darren Aronofsky's film - and the µ - thanks to the early breakbeat of µ-ziq - in our types. If some hot rapper comes up named "Ωman", I'm sure that we'll start to see the Omega everywhere.

In a general purpose font - read: created for graphic designers doing general design work, not specialists setting math textbooks, which require far more specialised glyphs than those listed above - it seemed perfectly reasonable to fill those slots with something fun and potentially useful. And the design of the "w" lent itself to this treatment.

A couple of the Thirstype fonts from this same period featured the glyph then being used by Prince as his name.

Bald Condensed's picture

> A couple of the Thirstype fonts from this same period featured the glyph then being used by Prince as his name.

Chester, you're waaay too clever for your own good. This is some great thinking, a perfect appropriation of pop culture in the context of type. Nice...

Mark Simonson's picture

A bit of speculative alternate history with Futura Book:

Mark Simonson's picture

Actually, I think the top loop would be a bit smaller than the bottom loop.

.'s picture

And since it's Futura, it would be "Was der Fuech?", right? (Maybe Karsten can tell us.)
A ligature for "imho" would probably be in miniscules or small caps...

Mark Simonson's picture

I think it's not supposed to be a ligature so much as a kind of evolved, abstract shorthand symbol that has become a sign distinct from the letters from which it is derived. The at sign comes from English (I think) and the ampersand from Latin, so language would not necessarily be relevant for such a thing. It's all rather academic, anyway. If one tried to introduce the at symbol or the ampersand now I don't imagine that it would catch on.

John Hudson's picture

Okay, Mark, I'm convinced. This form works really nicely across a range of styles. Someone needs to use this in some books or magazines, so we can justify a proposal to encode the wtf symbol in Unicode :)

.'s picture

Presentation to the Board of the Unicode Consortium:
Proposal for the addition of a glyph to the standard, a new glyph named "Whatthefuck".

The WTF glyph feels like a natural to be followed by uni203D.

cerulean's picture

I think at least one form with a level crossbar (like Jup's) would arise, and the sans faces would adopt these. Verdana:

.'s picture

Hahahaha! This site's engine just turned my "Whatthe-eff-you-see-kay" into "Whatthe----".

antiphrasis's picture

Mark,

Your WTF ligatures are really beautiful... only 30,000 more fonts to do and you're done. ;-)

cerulean's picture

I can't believe this didn't occur to me before: the origins of the exclamation point, question mark, and laughter mark.

sim's picture

Do you really think this exercice is really efficient?

Stephan Kurz's picture

My interpretation of a possible "lol" ligature:

g_u_y_t's picture

i think it should look like this more or less
from 2 reason 1.its not connecting anything , so it should be clear
2 it should have some continuty(?).................maybe

jazzsammich's picture

I really like your symbols, Mark, but they still look rather linguistic to me. I would think evolution would take them one step further, like so:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v231/jazzsammich/wtf.gif

--Jim

PS -- would somebody with the inline image option please repost this picture for me? Thanks!

engelhardt's picture

Here's jazzsammich/Jim's image (above) for those who don't want to click off to see it:

g_u_y_t's picture

nevermind

Mark Simonson's picture

Guy--your LOL looks just like a delete mark (used in proofreading).

paul d hunt's picture

i could really use a ROFLMAO ligature. >^D

g_u_y_t's picture

really?
and for that ill say LOL

fractal's picture

ROFLMAO

not sure if this will come through…

pd

stughead's picture

FWIW...

I showed jupiterboy's wtf to a non-graphic artist colleague. He glanced at the screen, and said "What the f--?" Obviously an excellent and highly recognizable representation. We both want t-shirts!

geesedude's picture

You have to consider the ease of writing these symbols; obviously if the symbol is harder to write than the acronym, then it wouldn't be widely used. Usually this means one continous motion going in one direction (left loop, left to right) and can't be too different than how language (Western) is written. For LOL, i would suspect two quick loops, punctuated with a dot to close. For WTF, 3 spikes, with a quick line and a dot; i was also thinking perhaps the dot would go away altogether after a while and just have a single bar at top of the "w".

engelhardt's picture

> You have to consider the ease of writing these symbols

I think Mark Simonson's wft is just about as easy for most as the &. Frankly, many people are too lazy to even write the &, opting for an even less complicated mark like +.

fheaney's picture

Mark's "wtf" (and Jim's shortening, which seems like a likely evolution) is actually more satisfying to me than an ampersand to write, because the ampersand is drawn diagonally up from the bottom right, a weird place to start a character.

engelhardt's picture

> because the ampersand is drawn diagonally up from the bottom right

Hm. Then... I must be writing my ampersands in reverse!

dave bailey's picture

Hm. Then… I must be writing my ampersands in reverse!

It took me a minute to figure out if I did it in reverse too, but alas I write them diagonally up and to the left as he stated. Although, I could see myself doing it your way too... :D

jiggery_pokery's picture

James,

I've had a look for a FAQ which might save me asking this question - couldn't find one, though this may be due to an error in my search rather than the document's absence - and I don't know whether it's a massive etiquette breach to even ask this, but:

I really like one of your wtf ligatures. Please may I start to use it, giving you appropriate credit?

Thanks in advance,
Chris
(having checked to see whether it's possible to e-mail you this rather than posting it to the board)

jlt's picture

Gee, nice to see that the ops can delete my posts in 5 minutes but that nasty garbage has been there for almost an hour.

---

jlt : http://www.hewnandhammered.com : rnrmf!

dave bailey's picture

hmmm yeah, what's the deal with that. It's not that late..

jlt's picture

There are 7 ops, right? I know it's the Wednesday before thanksgiving, but someone needs to delete this junk.

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jlt : http://www.hewnandhammered.com : rnrmf!

Elesirdur's picture

This is some really great stuff. geesdude I think you've got two excellent ideas, especially for pen writing. I'm not sure how easily the looped L's would work with a sans-serif console-style font, but as some kind of TT character it could definitly work.

The WTF t-shirt is a great idea, someone get Cafepress on the phone.

Ikean's picture

This is a modification to simplify the submission of Mark Simonson. I noticed, that in it's shape, the W was inherent as the center of the symbol already and the weight in the beginning was unnecessary.

jupiterboy's picture

James,
I’ve had a look for a FAQ which might save me asking this question - couldn’t find one, though this may be due to an error in my search rather than the document’s absence - and I don’t know whether it’s a massive etiquette breach to even ask this, but:
I really like one of your wtf ligatures. Please may I start to use it, giving you appropriate credit?
Thanks in advance,
Chris
(having checked to see whether it’s possible to e-mail you this rather than posting it to the board)

”Start to use it” is rather open ended.The odd exercise like this is fun, but if we can keep the work here open and collaborative, without the worry of the work being used, I think we preserve the intent of the group. Drop me a note at jupiterboy@sbcglobal.net if you would like to discuss further.

Someone call the janitor.

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