Type Faces, Peter Shenai in London

Hiya again. I’ve been having fun with the : – ) symbol. It’s a classic trope in British texting (and I think internationally?) to use a colon, dash, bracket to make a smiling face, conveying a friendly tone where digital-speak is otherwise lacking. These forerunners to emojis are sometimes called “smileys” or “emoticons” although I prefer to call them “Type Faces”. 

: – )   ; – )   : – (

So I got to wondering: what would the same “Type Face” look like in different “Typefaces”? Would each have a different personality? Here’s what happened when I played out the idea. (Nb. You can click each image to see an enlarged version)

I’ve started printing postcards of these Type Faces, and I’m going to begin to make some prints. And of course, it’s time to see how sad/cheeky faces play out in different fonts…

A few little observations

  • Typographers talk of fonts as having different “personalities”, which I love. It’s great to know that the strength of this “personality” doesn’t wane with the lesser-used glyphs like like brackets and colons.
  • They also refer to fonts as splitting into different “Font Families” – which also feels apt here…
  • This project is sparking fond (and probably inaccurate) recollections of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s discussions of “family resemblances” and “language games”… Maybe I’ll save any more thoughts on this for the comments/interview….

Also – I hear that in Russia, sometimes a mere bracket is enough to denote a smile ) Such sophistication! Would love to hear from anyone else around the globe about any other digital emoticon conventions.

1 Comment
  1. Avatar photo
    Nanda Raemansky

    Hello Peter,
    I am absolutely fond of using emoticons in digital messages they add indeed (to a certain point) what mere words lack. These are a few I like to use 🙂 😉 8) 😮 :-s :,( 🙁 ;-* 😀 😛 ^.^ \m/ :))) Funny to see how they each end up looking so different depending on the font you use.

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