The most powerful glyph ever created?

buddhaboy's picture

OK, we practically rebuilt our home a few years ago, and I still haven't got round to getting enough pictures and artwork on the walls for my wife's tastes!

I got thinking today about producing a large scale work based upon a single glyph - either as a 2D print of some sort, or as a 3D object... It occured to me that with type having such a rich history that it would be hard to choose any particular glyph. Do I choose one based simply on it's form, or perhaps one based upon it's political history, or one that was simply part of an important event in the history of civilisation?

I expect there are as many choices as there are reasons for making them.

Although not my choice, consider the dollar sign? but in which typeface, and why?

Any interesting ideas? It's really made me consider how poor is my knowledge of typographical history!


Jos Buivenga's picture

Have a look at this.

jupiterboy's picture

I would vote a period the most powerful.

Lc g is perennially popular.

House Industries is selling a 3D ampersand that might fit the bill.

Florian Hardwig's picture

The folks from House Industries have produced a beautiful 3d ampersand. That would be my choice: unlike the $, it is a character that connects. And there are lots of fantastic incarnations. In the (translated) words of Andreas Stötzner:

Along with the chair and the door handle, the Latin alphabet has become a true design classic. All evolving generations anew try their hands at it. And within this task, the ‘et’ ligature is still – and just again – what the cadenza is to the soloist in a concert – the freely played crowning volta, where imagination and skill can trenchantly be brought to bear. — [Signa 2]

Si_Daniels's picture

>Any interesting ideas?

The Swastika?

Si_Daniels's picture

Edit: I probably shouldn't comment. Although it would look good on a T-shirt. But only seven people would get the joke.

will powers's picture

I usually don't get to excited about holiday lights in December.

I help Cheryl put them up, that's it. But one Sunday while shoveling snow I got an idea. I bought 16 feet of small white LED lights and arranged them upon the metal armature that had held last year's wreath. The resulting "peace" symbol is nailed to the roof of the garage and is lit up every evening at dusk. I may have to leave it up there forever.



Alessandro Segalini's picture

What is the meaning of that, John ?

Nick Shinn's picture

A honking big 3D monogram of your initials would tell the world who the man is.
Or your wife's, if she's the boss :-)

Florian Hardwig's picture

@Alessandro: I don’t know what it is, but it is in all the ClearType fonts.

nina's picture

Wow – I noticed that symbol posted by John recently (in Calibri) and almost posted here to ask about it. Please do enlighten us, John :)

Nick Shinn's picture

Photo please, Will!

miha's picture

what about ♥?

John, this is so powerful! It's good you uploaded a raster image, if we would see pure beziers we may die!

dezcom's picture

infinity symbol


Si_Daniels's picture

Maybe the comma? More wars and lawsuits have been started over misplaced commas than for any other reason.

John Hudson's picture

I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to explain what this glyph does (and it does, rather than means, which is why it is perhaps uniquely powerful). I've signed so many NDAs that I'm amazed to open my mouth in public at all. But this glyph is included, as others have noted, in all the MS ClearType fonts. To tell the truth, I don't think I fully understand what it does or, rather, I know what it does but I don't understand the significance of what it does.

Si, I'll take one of those t-shirts.

DTY's picture

You know, Jimmy Page made up his own symbol:

and Prince made up his own symbol:

Well, inspired by these examples, Bill Gates wanted to have his own symbol too. And now it's in all the ClearType fonts ;)

Si_Daniels's picture

>I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to explain what this glyph does

Let a thousand conspiracy theories bloom ;-)

>Well, inspired by these examples, Bill Gates wanted to have his own symbol too. And now it’s in all the ClearType fonts ;)

That's a good start! ;-)

dtw's picture

It is like Trap Street on maps?
Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

The handprint has to be the most powerful - and ancient -symbol ever made.
This one from Handprint Cave, Belize, wallpaper photo from National Geographic:

Christian Barca's picture

The Cross + is probably the most powerful symbol! That's why it has been misused so much.
Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz.

mike_duggan's picture


dezcom's picture



speter's picture

Be careful people, or *they* will shut us down! We know too much.

dezcom's picture

That is just gorgeous! Is it for real or just something you just put together?


Jongseong's picture

It's a genuine Chinese character, so I can't take credit for it! It's the character , meaning "sorrow", and it was the first thing I thought of when I saw John's symbol.

eliason's picture

I'm glad this thread came up, because my toast looked funny this morning and I'm hoping one of you can tell me what it might mean.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Ehague, ROTFL!

Typedog's picture

The Swastika?

Although many nations use it, the diabolical Nazi's have turned into a piece of Sh*t.

acnapyx's picture

Maybe this is just a wild guess, but considering the fact that it is in all Cleartype fonts, and judging from the specifics of the glyph, my opinion is that the mysterious symbol posted by John has something to do with the font-hinting specifics in Cleartype collection. Maybe for testing exact delta-hinting details? It has all the prerequisites for this - adequate X-height, single bar in the middle and many bars outside, which would help locating discrepancies in hinting.

What stumbles me is the fact that even in the italics it is still upright... but with so many NDAs I do not believe there is any hope to find out soon what really this glyph does.

eliason's picture

The filename of John's graphic includes "ctsecglyph" - so if "ct" means ClearType, "sec" may have something to do with SECURITY. It may be that Microsoft has some intentions of

Hold on, there's a knock on my door. I'll have to finish this post later.

dberlow's picture

"Do I choose one based simply on it’s form, or perhaps one based upon it’s political history, or one that was[...]?"

Duh a. Don't any of you people know how to work with a client?

What, my good man, is the 1st letter of your wife's name?


Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I would definitely go with a question mark.

paul d hunt's picture

hopefully your home is already 'full' of the most important glyph: space.

speter's picture

hopefully your home is already ’full’ of the most important glyph: space.

Nah, my *head's* full of that!

Vladimir Tamari's picture

The handmark may be the most personal of symbols and to many the cross, or the crescent, the swastika etc etc, are the most meaningful. The circle is the most universal - the outline of the Sun and Moon, the eye's pupil, and the Earth itself (although it took some time to figure that out). It is also geometrically perfect and is the symbol for zero and the letter O. In its utilitarian manifestations it becomes the wheel, the dish, the wedding rules them all.

Nick Job's picture

>>>Hold on, there’s a knock on my door. I’ll have to finish this post later.

Craig, are you still there? Sorry it's taken me a day to ask the question.

eliason's picture

I'm still here, but since I like my kneecaps as they are, I'll refrain from saying anything more. :-)

nina's picture

Spotted this in my type history class today.

Craig, do you think your phone is tapped?

Jongseong's picture

The Hunminjeongeum Eonhaebon, 1446, Korea. Notice the second character from the top in the leftmost line.

dezcom's picture

It looks like the hairy H syndrome :-)


jabez's picture

dezcom, I guess that's what happens when you leave your H out in the rain.

dezcom's picture

That is better than cake at least :-)


rcc's picture

Chris, do you mean those with all the sweet green icing flowing down?

oprion's picture

Was just going through the old photo archives.

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