A post from Shady Characters

Miscellany № 3

I came across the Twitter feed of a new, UK-based design agency recently, and I couldn’t let them go by without a mention: Interabang founders Adam Giles and Ian McLean have chosen a name close to my heart. I was able to chat with Adam over email about their reasoning, and he was good enough to let me post his words here:

As a graphic designer, the interrobang/interabang has always been on my radar as an unusual moment in the history of punctuation (and typography). When my partner Ian and I set up this company a little over a year ago we spent a long time thinking about a name that would mark us out as different whilst also hinting at the nature of what we do.

Superficially we love the sound of the word interabang, and we also suspected (correctly) it would be a great ice breaker when meeting people — we either get into a conversation about what an interabang is, or (on occasion) people know what one is, and enjoy telling us about how they came across one. This is partly why we don’t feature an actual interabang as part of our identity, as we wanted there to be a level of intrigue and ‘discovery’.

Conceptually we liked the idea of an interabang being two elements coming together to create something new (in the same way that my partner and I came together to start the company). It also suggests questions and answers, reminding us of the problem solving process we engage in as designers.

An 'interabang' iced onto a cake for design agency Interabang UK
An ‘interabang’ iced onto a cake for design agency Interabang UK.

Also, Adam explained their decision to use the less common ‘interabang’, rather than the more usual ‘interrobang’, and summed up neatly the benefits of choosing such an unusual (to non-Shady Characters readers, at least!) word for their name:

Lastly, we chose the alternative spelling as we were concerned that people coming to the word cold, might find it harsh or aggressive (its only one letter away from having ‘terror’ in it!).

As a company name interabang has worked really well for us — if you read the article from design week linked below it’s the first thing mention[ed] about us. We’ve also found that people really engage with it — clients make up all sorts of names for us, and we’ve had a stream of home made/found interabang symbols sent to us. The most recent was iced onto a cake [ed: see above]!

The Design Week profile mentioned above can be found here, and you can read more about the agency at their website. Shady Characters has, of course, already covered the history of the interrobang/interabang at length, and who knows — perhaps some of Interabang’s clients will turn here to learn more about the agency’s namesake.


Also on Shady Characters’ radar is this post at xperimetre (the blog of Philadelphia’s Dark Potion Printing) which proposes a new mark of punctuation called the “affirmation point”, or “checkpoint”. Echoing Hervé Bazin’s pictographic “love point” and “acclamation point”, the checkpoint is oddly compelling. I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary as such, but to my eyes at least the checkpoint lends itself to sensible typographic rendering in a manner quite unlike that other newly created mark of punctuation, the much-maligned SarcMark.


That’s all for this year. I’d like to say thank you to all Shady Characters readers — the site would have been a quiet place without your comments, and the book wouldn’t have been possible at all. Have a great holiday, and see you all again in the new year!

3 comments on “Miscellany № 3

  1. Comment posted by Andrew Odri on

    I’m sure you have come across this before, but the New South Wales state library in Australia actually uses the interrobang as their logo: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/. Thank you for all the interesting articles!

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Andrew,

      I actually talked to Vince Frost of Frost Design (the company which designed the logo) a while back, and he explained why they chose the interrobang:

      The library was about to celebrate its 100th birthday. And wanted to mark it with a new identity and a repositioning across all its communications and signage.

      We started by interviewing various stake holders and spent time going deep into the project. This informed our insight and helped us create the strategy based around ‘surprising’. Not everything is on google and the physical act of the search is likely to uncover surprises. There is a massive wealth of content from Sydney’s and Australia’s history in the huge archives of this library.

      We tried many logos and different […] ways of expressing this. Then I remembered the interrobang. What it represented was perfect for the library.

      You go there looking for answers and it’s often a eureka moment when you discover the answer or an inspiration.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Comment posted by jeremiah on

    Hey Keith, great blog here! Thanks for the shot out re: affirmation point (checkpoint). And glad to learn about Herve Bazin. Hadn’t known about him before. Certainly a lot of pertinent info here for me. great writing too. I look forward to reading more articles. We’re now working on a ‘Periodic Table of Pictuation’ to collectively present the various pictuation marks (from the semi-practical to the absurd). And we’ve got a few new marks in the works. :) I’ll certainly be in touch when we put it out. Cheers!

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