Well, hello there.
You all know the handsome fellow that adorns the cover of this book, don’t you? This is the ironieteken, the brainchild of type designer Bas Jacobs, and it is used to terminate an ironic statement.1 Specifically, it is intended to punctuate verbal irony, where a speaker or writer says one thing but means another. It is, to my mind, the most visually convincing irony mark to date — but for the purposes of today’s short post, it is merely one of the many suitors who have tried and failed to win irony’s hand in marriage.
After posting last year about the quasiquote (still one of my favourite finds!), a New Zealand reader named Kim Anderson got in touch to tell me about a typographic design project she was about to embark upon. And though the subject of her project has since morphed from the quasiquote to the irony mark, it is my pleasure to share it with you now that it is finished. As Kim describes it:
For centuries a quiet but persistent debate has raged over whether irony should be punctuated. Many have put forward their suggestions for an irony mark (all with varying degrees of seriousness), but so far none have lasted the test of time.
Fascinated by this topic, I styled the search for an irony mark into irony’s search for a punctuation soulmate — its perfect match. While many obstacles stand in irony’s way to find true punctuated love, it perseveres right into the digital age.
Kim took to heart the idea that irony has been seeking a typographic partner since, oh, the time of the Great Fire of London, and produced a book chronicling its quest to find the right irony mark through posting in a lonely hearts column. The ironieteken you see above is the cover star of the resultant book, titled Unpunctuated seeking and written, designed, printed and bound by Kim herself. For all that I scroll through the images of it at Kim’s online portfolio, I’m still captivated by that bright red of that debossed ironieteken. The world at large may have disdained their union, but I think irony and the ironieteken are made for each other.
I must thank Kim for keeping me up to date with her project — it looks fantastic, and, as someone who has just finished crudely stitching together a home-made photo album as a wedding anniversary gift for my wife, I am entirely in awe of the skill evident in Kim’s production of the finished article. If you’re interested in Kim’s work, follow her on Twitter or see more of her portfolio at Behance.
Apologies for the truncated post; the manuscript for The Book has just arrived back from W. W. Norton and I am rather giddily leafing through Brendan Curry’s edits in preparation for responding to them. Trust me when I tell you that it will be a much better book for his attentions!
Jacobs, Bas. “Irony Mark, and the Need for New Punctuation Marks”. Underware, 2007, Underware, 2007.