Have you ever wondered whether those unique dingbat symbols have any purpose? Actually, they do. You probably know that dingbats are fonts that consist of little pictures, bullets and shapes that display in place of characters, numbers and punctuation. In the world of printing, a dingbat was known as a printer’s ornament and was used for things like ending a chapter or a section in a book.
Wingdings and Webdings
The first digital dingbat typeface was Zapf Dingbats, followed by many others, including Wingdings and Webdings. Most likely, one or both of these come with your computer operating system. When you select a dingbat font, an image will display for every letter, number and punctuation mark that you type. Typically, upper case and lower case letters produce different pictures too.
In many applications, you can select standard dingbats through the “Insert Symbol” tool. In others, you will have to type the letter. Below are the Wingdings symbols that display when I type capital letters A through O at 60 points.
Below are the pictures that display using the Webdings font at 60 points and typing the letters A through O.
There are an overwhelming variety of dingbat typefaces, each with their own unique illustrations that you can download and install. There are many categories, such as birds, trees, snowflakes, cartoons, sports, flowers, presidents, ornaments, miscellaneous objects. Below is a part of the selection you can find at Font Squirrel. See the resources at the end of this article for sites with dingbat collections.
Uses in eLearning and Slides
Dingbat characters have several uses. They allow you to quickly embed a small decoration as part of your content. You can also use dingbat symbols for icons or as a minimalist illustration, varying the scale by using a larger or smaller point size. Dingbats provide a free collection of icons and illustrations at your fingertips. Use dingbats when you want to:
- Add a flourish to a design
- Depict objects as icons
- Create graphic with the dingbat as an illustration (use a large point size)
How to Access Dingbats
In authoring tools, graphics programs and PowerPoint, insert a dingbat character from the Insert Symbol panel (if your application has this functionality) with one of the dingbat fonts selected. This way you can see the entire selection of pictures and symbols.
Alternatively, you can select the dingbat font and type the desired character. If you don’t have a chart of the dingbat symbols, you will have to explore by typing the letters, numbers and punctuation.
Once you select a dingbat picture, you can increase its size, change the color, rotate it and flip it. You can combine several dingbats together, partially overlapping them to create a scene. And in some applications, you can select the text box with a dingbat character, right-click, and save it as a graphic, as shown in PowerPoint below.
Using Dingbats for Icons
Dingbats make excellent icons because they are crisp illustrations that are clearly visible at small sizes. To create an icon from a dingbat, place each dingbat picture on a similar background shape. Below, note how you can use dingbats to represent categories of information. Display these types of icons to organize concepts, as a mnemonic device, or as interactive icons that are part of a user interface.
Using Dingbats for Illustrations
By enlarging a dingbat picture to 200 points or greater, you can use it as an illustration in your designs. Then arrange it just as you would any image, combining it with text. Below I demonstrate a four-step process for creating a title screen about desert plant life using a dingbat as the illustration.
If you’re working with a small budget or if you are seeking a minimalist style, dingbats are a valuable resource.
Visual Design Solutions
This article is a modified version of one of many topics covered in my book, Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals. The book covers visual design principles and creative strategies to teach learning experience designers how to practice visual design with intention.
Resources: Dingbat Fonts
Please check that it is safe to download fonts from these sites. I have only used a few of them.
- Font Squirrel
- 1001 Fonts (tons of ’em)
- Fontspace (see their silhouette dingbat font)
- All Hands font (pointing fingers)
- Pinterest: Dingbat Fonts