At the heart of Shady Characters’ recent redesign are the text and display typefaces of Satyr and Faunus, both designed by Sindre Bremnes of Norway’s Monokrom type studio. Shady Characters, of course, is all about unusual marks of punctuation, and I was glad to see that both typefaces came complete with a handy selection of special characters. Even so, there were a few marks missing: the interrobang for one; the numero symbol I use in many post titles for another. As I chatted to Frode Helland of Monokrom about the minutiae of web fonts, though, he suggested that he and Sindre might be able to add some new characters to help Shady Characters live up to its name.
But first: interrobangs. This is shaping up to be a banner year for Martin K. Speckter’s creation. Having been selected by Pearson, the giant publishing firm, to form the nucleus of its new logo, the interrobang now pops up at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft as the title of an upcoming exhibition of letterpress printing.
Things have been quiet lately on the interrobang front. Well, no longer. Take a look at this:
That is an interrobang and a half, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So, some context. Pearson is a global publishing and education company with fingers in many pies — schools, higher education, professional development, and traditional publishing via imprints such as Addison Wesley and Shady Characters’s own Penguin Books — that until recently possessed only the blandest of corporate logos. In 2015, however, they decided to come up with a new identity. As Brand New reported, quoting from the press release that accompanied the rebranding exercise:
I had the pleasure, recently, of writing another article for BBC Culture. It’s called “Punctuation that failed to make its mark” and it’s a sort of Shady Characters greatest hits, a compilation of a few of my favourite marks that tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to achieve widespread acceptance. There’s Martin K. Speckter’s evergreen interrobang, or ‘‽’, intended to punctuate an excited or rhetorical question; Bas Jacob’s clever but ill-fated ironiteken, or irony mark, as shown above; and the excellent quasiquote (
″), or paraphrasing mark, first sent in to Shady Characters back in 2014 by the late Ned Brooks.
Readers! Have you ever wanted a better name for “marks of punctuation”? No, me neither. And yet that is exactly what drove James Brown (no, not that one) to produce the page shown here in his rambling, esoteric An English Syntithology: In Three Books, Developing the Constructive Principles of the English Language of 1845.1