The @ symbol is now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Which typographic symbol do you think is worthy of recognition, and why?

I think the German ß needs preserving. It is a beautiful ligature (of long s and short s, pronounced like ’double s’, as in Straße) which is only used in German and a challenge for every type designer. Cultural imperialism threatens anything outside the lower ASCII range of characters. English knows no diacritics, but every other language does.

Erik Spiekermann, Creative director and managing partner, Eden Spiekermann Berlin

The ? symbol is most worthy of recognition for its cultural impact in our age of anxiety. This visual signal of uncertainty embodies all the appropriate simplicity, economy and elegance of great design. The stroke-over-dot turns a statement into a direct question. In Spanish it is inverted, in Arabic it is mirrored, reminiscent of a striking lightning flash. Its origins are questionable. Perhaps it is an upper-case Q over a lower-case o, or, as was claimed in an Austin Powers film, it was invented by Dr Evil’s father. Without it we would not have had seminal Punk band ? and the Mysterians, or The Riddler and his ?-adorned jumpsuit.

Mark Wigan, Principal, Mr Wigan’s School of Graphic Arts

(.)(.) We know this sort of stuff started in the playground, but didn’t all the best (and maybe worst) experiences start there? Communicating our emotions quickly has always been a bit of a challenge with the written word, so typographic ’emoticons’ have been developing for some time. Now, with the massive expansion in digital and mobile technology, there’s a need to express our emotions more quickly than ever. The language of smiley faces is developing and becoming more sophisticated – it will, I believe, become valuable. A wide range of quite subtle feelings can be now be communicated by text, across different cultures, more quickly than ever before. What was once a giggle about breasts is now becoming an integral part of our social and business language… :o, but a little :-/

John Bateson, Founder, Bateson Studio

My beloved ampersand, the only typographic symbol in the Roman character set that exclusively spells an entire word, is a logo of the French word ’et’, though ironically it is not used in that language (because our ’et’ is actually Latin). Reviled by copy editors, adored by both those who design fonts and those who must identify them, the non-phonetic & is cooly comfortable among its one-sound siblings. When the world wisely chooses to adopt Korea’s Hangul as the world’s best alphabet, I dearly hope that our self-referentially named ampersand and its spirit of global inclusiveness aren’t left behind.

David Berman, Founder, David Berman Communications

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