Why does the Wingdings Font Exist? [SYTL 3min]
February 15, 2017 12:30 PM   Subscribe

What is Wingdings and why was it created? Wingdings is a font made entirely out of symbols. Buy why?

Wingdings is a font which seems like it has no clear purpose. Why design a font no one can read?

Due to it’s almost pictographic nature, Wingdings has been accused of concealing coded racist messages not once but twice.

Answers to these questions and accusations can be found in the above 3min Single Link Youtube vid.

Enjoy.
posted by Faintdreams (44 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cmon man why don't you just TELL me.
posted by jcruelty at 12:32 PM on February 15 [15 favorites]


Because it's not for text, it's for use as an icon set?
posted by mpbx at 12:35 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]




But we know the purpose: saving time, beautifully

WRONG
posted by Going To Maine at 12:41 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


πŸ‘Œβ˜Ίβœ” post.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:44 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


Wingdings is a font made entirely out of symbols.

As opposed to other fonts, which are made out of...
posted by Wolfdog at 12:49 PM on February 15 [29 favorites]


Bees.
posted by kyrademon at 12:51 PM on February 15 [101 favorites]


This makes me feel very old and somewhat apart. Symbol fonts used to be Such A Thing. I still use ButtonButton AOE now and again because I lurve things that look like they should be on bread packages. Unicode swallowed anything in there that was useful, that and the move online where you couldn't bring your fonts usefully with you I think killed it. (What frosts me is what a pain in the ass approaching impossible MS makes entering those characters via the keyboard. You thought Alt+0 was fun, wait until you hack your registry entry to discover that the sequence you want is still invalid...)
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:52 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I thought the whole purpose was for immature boys to be able to make the screensavers in the school labs all dance with the windings version of lowercase "a" (β™‹οΈŽ).
posted by mattamatic at 12:59 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


BBBBBBB BB              BB     B         BB                          
  BBB   BB        BB BB BB    BBB  BBB   BB    BB BB  BB   BB   BBB  
  BBB   BBBBBB   BB BBB BBBB  BB  B      BBBB  BBB  B BB   BB BB   B 
  BBB   BB   BB BB  BBB BB         BBB   BB    BB     BB   BB BBBBB     BB
  BBB   BB   BB  BBB BB  BBBB         B   BBBB BB      BBBB B  BBBBB    BB
                                   BBB                               
posted by Wolfdog at 1:02 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


Because the owners of Zapf Dingbats wanted too much for licensing it?
posted by acb at 1:07 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


That video was the πŸ’£-diggity. I almost think I should πŸ’Ύ it, or is that 🚫?
posted by Samizdata at 1:08 PM on February 15


Because Unicode didn't exist yet so they had to do symbols by replacing existing code points. Now unicode exists and we have more symbols than we know what to do with.

🌽

πŸ’ˆ

πŸ—»
posted by GuyZero at 1:20 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Somehow Wingdings' snowman symbol ended up in Unicode, and during the brief window before registering arbitrary symbols was outlawed, someone managed to register β˜ƒ.com which is the only non-language domain name under the .com TLD. And they're not even using it.
posted by miyabo at 1:21 PM on February 15 [21 favorites]


β˜ƒ.com

That snowman appears to be a Shriner. Snowshriner?
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:27 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Somehow Wingdings' snowman symbol ended up in Unicode, and during the brief window before registering arbitrary symbols was outlawed, someone managed to register β˜ƒ.com which is the only non-language domain name under the .com TLD. And they're not even using it.

I would like to take this opportunity to promote my MeFi Project, Dingwings: Reverse Wingdings, a stupid and/or dumb font which maps symbolic Unicode codepoints to standard letter glyphs.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:33 PM on February 15 [10 favorites]


hold up, I call foul. A FONT not described in text but in a video? oh hell no.
posted by janey47 at 1:37 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


My impression was that early Windows versions actually had no capacity for drawing vector graphics on the screen except as a TrueType font. The dingbat fonts were a simple way for programs to draw scalable graphics, which would otherwise require bulky libraries to be included. (And in the days when memory was measured in single digit megabytes, that was a pretty big deal.)
posted by zixyer at 1:54 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I bet the documentary about Zapf would be interesting.

Fonts on early computers was really constrained, not just by storage, the displays had limited facility, the OS and even firmware were limited. Sometimes a spurious code would trigger the wrong (forgetting exact terminology) code point and the screen could switch to a font missing a letter or right into dingbats and then typing in a reset command was a tricky.


                                                                                  ⚘
posted by sammyo at 2:39 PM on February 15


No, Windows had the WMF format, "Windows Metafile," starting around 1990, approx the same time as Wingdings. It's just useful to have vector-based symbols in a font, not requiring any special support from your program to use. Which is part of why Unicode has so many symbols now, really.
posted by JHarris at 2:40 PM on February 15


And we're all using font-awesome now which is basically a mega Wingdings, so the concept has persisted.
posted by miyabo at 2:50 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a (not very) secret code.
posted by allthinky at 2:53 PM on February 15


FontAwesome or bust!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:18 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Opposing view: Fontawesome, actually awful (well designed, but an ugly use case).
posted by combinatorial explosion at 3:50 PM on February 15


Communicating the point is the main issue.

I am involved in promoting a marathon for my employer, and one person habitually writes to me with a string of these characters or some kind of pictographs*. She'll start out with a few words and then insert characters that I'm supposed to recognize, then go back to actual letters and words.

She'll use the clock, for example, but that could mean registration deadline or her speed or who knows what else. Other times, she inserts an image of a runner, which could be a runner, running, a race or speed. I'm always at a loss to know exactly what she means. And she uses multiple images, which makes guessing the meaning of the sentence difficult. I used to get angry at her but then she had a heart attack, so now I try to be kind. (she recovered and ran a half marathon eight months later, so there's that.)

*i suppose they could be called emojis but I've never seen them anywhere else, certainly not in other emails or Facebook.

But they surely complicate communication.
posted by etaoin at 3:51 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


That snowman β˜ƒ also lives at the bottom of this page (look down and to the right, scootched up next to FAQ and Contact)
posted by seawallrunner at 3:51 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


When I was about 10 years old, my grandfather got a Macintosh computer. Knowing that I was a nerdy child enamored of puzzles & codes, he wrote me a letter, switched the font to Wingdings (?) on about half of it, printed it out, and mailed it off to me to decode. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and still remember it 25-odd years later.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:16 PM on February 15 [9 favorites]


Nobody tell them about font awesome.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Anyone asking these questions is utterly ignorant of the use of dingbats in typography. Amateurs.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:20 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


Bah, they took away my MODERN.FON …
posted by scruss at 4:36 PM on February 15


My impression was that early Windows versions actually had no capacity for drawing vector graphics on the screen except as a TrueType font.

This is not true. Pretty much every Windows device uses a bitmapped display buffer but of course there are line drawing and various vector primitives in the Win32 API and Win16 before that (or whatever it was called). Whether you consider a Windows DrawLine() call to be "vector graphics" depends on how much you played Tempest and Asteroids in 1982.


Sometimes you want to put a symbol into Word where you normally put a character. Like you have a checklist and you want empty boxes and boxes with checkmarks. I'm not sure why this seems so hard to believe. People want symbols and making a symbol font is a trillion times easier than hard-coding all this nonsense directly into apps.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Now unicode exists and we have more symbols than we know what to do with.

And yet I can never find the ones I really need...
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:48 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


One of my fav things was putting the blank character as my name in Counter-Strike via the console. That was back when I was fairly good at CS and was probably CAL-M and had admins and others thinking I was hacking, although I wasn't. They could never figure out how to kick me unless they had some admin tools, and even then sometimes they didn't think to look at my WON ID or whatever, versus username.
posted by gucci mane at 4:55 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


That snowman β˜ƒ also lives at the bottom of this page (look down and to the right, scootched up next to FAQ and Contact)

That means you're viewing MeFi on the "new" server! But unfortunately it's gone in the modern theme. :'(
posted by russm at 5:14 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad and acb are correct. Any pre-Win / Mac type shop had a dingbats font, usually Zapf, and it was the single most-used everyday font, the one you kept in the machine on the fourth wheel in a Varityper, because you would drop it in as bullets or whatever in the middle of jobs that otherwise used Futura or Times or Palatino or whatever. Getting typeshops to use the newfangled tech meant that a functional equivalent to Zapf Dingbats had to be made available, and there was no way a hundred thousand indie typesetters were gonna buy the damn font *again*.

And here we are, all hundred thousand indie typesetters washed away by the floodwaters that eventually brought us the Trump administration.
posted by mwhybark at 7:04 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


"For David Carson to famously set an entire Bryan Ferry article in. Duh."

That's Zapf Dingbats.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:09 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


You need it for hearts and smileys in books. Also the ornament Harper requires on their copyright page. Duh.

When you get an email with a random J, it is a translated smiley face
posted by (Over) Thinking at 8:13 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


The Apples tells me that symbol is "Snowman surrounded by Snowflakes"
posted by Yowser at 8:14 PM on February 15


All snowmen are, in a way.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:48 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


When you get an email with a random J, it is a translated smiley face
Whenever I get a random J in an email, I think "Hello, Outlook user."
posted by xedrik at 9:11 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


xedrik: "When you get an email with a random J, it is a translated smiley face
Whenever I get a random J in an email, I think "Hello, Outlook user."
"

Wait. ANOTHER reason to not use Outlook?
posted by Samizdata at 10:03 PM on February 15


I was looking at this scratching my head because... this needs to be explained? My only conclusion is that I must be very, very old. If back then anyone was writing a text document and needed to add some basic clipart in-line with the text (be it a fancier bullet-point, a box to tick, cut-here scissors, etc) all it took was starting charmap, select what was need, copy and paste. No fiddling with embed images or anything else that could break formatting or ruin portability between the same system.
What's next for Vox, a video explaining what's the Unicode Range 25?

Around 12 years ago or so I had a soccer league using the survivors from our Waddingtons' Table Soccer game with RPG-ish rules. Because it was still a few years before having a laptop, I had to print the data, and so created my own set of dingbats
posted by lmfsilva at 5:50 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


But unfortunately it's gone in the modern theme. :'(

what the hell
posted by Going To Maine at 9:32 AM on February 16


Beware the man who speaks in hands.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:07 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


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