by Ilene Strizver
Setting type means selecting and arranging groups of characters, but not all of those characters have to be part of the alphabet. Dingbats are non-typographic elements that can enhance your work by adding variety and functionality.
The word “dingbat” is sometimes used to describe an addle-brained person, but typographically speaking, dingbats have both feet on the ground. A dingbat is a decorative element available in font format. Dingbats can be graphic elements such as squares, triangles, hearts, checkmarks, pinwheels, lightning bolts, arrows or stars. They can also be small illustrations of anything you can imagine: a pointing finger, a pencil, a pair of scissors.
Dingbats are appropriate for both print and web applications and can enhance visual communication in many ways. Use them as:
- bullets (try squares, inverted triangles, or checkmarks)
- paragraph separators
- article endings
- borders (when strung together)
- checkboxes on forms or surveys
- eye-catching symbols to highlight e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, etc.
- logos (when combined with type)
- purely decorative elements
Dingbats can also be enlarged, tinted (try converting them to outline format and coloring them), flipped, flopped and reversed. Are they versatile? You bet.
The most well-known dingbat font is ITC Zapf Dingbats, designed by Hermann Zapf. It is bundled with most computers, printers and much software, and is thus freely available to virtually anyone using a computer. Many wonderful and varied dingbat fonts can be purchased, and others are available as freeware. They can be addictive, however. Once you get hooked on dingbats, you’ll never have enough of these practical, fun-to-use fonts!
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