︎Back to Typographic Investigations

SUNY Purchase ︎ (DES3440) Typographic Investigations

“That S Thing,” Bliss Symbols, etc.


As we go deeper into the Unicode Spelunking Project, I want to make sure we look at some interesting/whacky things that are not necessarily letters, and are loaded with power; dangerous, benevolent, innocent, but power nonetheless. Your final project here can be something closer to a highly developed typeface, or, something akin to the things described below. 

“The S Thing”

No one knows where this comes from. As far as I know from my anecdotal research, kids still draw them and know “the program”

This person also made a typeface based on it.


Blissymbols or Blissymbolics are an aspirational, universal, non-verbal ideographic writing system. Charles Bliss developed the system after being in a concentration camp in WWII and seeing the Chinese written language in an area for refugees in Shanghai. They’ve been used for people who do not have the capacity to speak, for example people with cerebral palsy.

This sentence means "I want to go to the cinema." This example shows several features of Blissymbolics:
    • The pronoun "I" is formed of the Bliss-character for "person" and the number 1 (the first person). Using the number 2 would give the symbol for singular "You"; adding the plural indicator (a small cross at the top) would produce the pronouns "We" and plural "You".
    • The Bliss-word for "to want" contains the heart which symbolizes "feeling" (the classifier), plus the serpentine line which symbolizes "fire" (the modifier), and the verb (called "action") indicator at the top.
    • The Bliss-word for "to go" is composed of the Bliss-character for "leg" and the verb indicator.
    • The Bliss-word for "cinema" is composed of the Bliss-character for "house" (the classifier), and "film" (the modifier); "film" is a composite character composed of "camera" and the arrow indicating movement.


Sigils are symbols typically used in magic(k). I’m still trying to learn a bit deeper about the history of them, but they are largely used for the symbolic “names” of demons in The Lesser Key of Solomon. They also are typically used to focus your intention in a central, visual source. They’re usually constructed with magic squares, and you can even create some with this lil Javascript app.

(Zodiac) Ciphers

To be clear, obviously Zodiac Killer = bad. That being said, clearly, and vociferously, these notes are absolutely fascinating. Why send codes? Why create a subset of non-alphabetic symbols? Why?
︎Back to Typographic Investigations