The asterisk

Primary tabs

70 posts / 0 new
Last post
Jason Pagura's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm
The asterisk
0

I like to make mine with five points, but in most fonts I see them done with six. Conceivably seven could work, but eight or four wouldn't in most cases. Three might, though.

What do you think about asterisks?

Tom Lukacs's picture
Offline
Joined: 26 May 2006 - 7:52pm
0

I've seen quite a lot of 5 point asterisks & in the 3 fonts I've made so far I've made them with 4, 5 & 6 points. I guess it mainly depends on the font & what the designer feels fits it best (as long as it's recognisable as a star).

Jackie Frant's picture
Offline
Joined: 24 Feb 2005 - 9:18am
0

I always felt 5 did the trick.
When the font is well thought-out - normally the asterick has been as well.

One of the ugliest I ever came across was a font named Caledo - it was Alphatype's version of Caledonia. It was one of the three characters they changed to call it a new font. They made an 8-pointed mess of it. I did find great use of it one day. Ballantine Books had one of their "Inspirational" book covers to design and they needed a dingbat to separate the author and title on the spine -- I gave them Caledo's asterick - it was the only place I could ever see it be used.

Glad others think along these lines. You know - the regular people out there would consider us all nuts...

Chris Lozos's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
0

"the regular people out there would consider us all nuts…"

And they would be right about us :-)

ChrisL

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0

The only problem I could see in your solution is that it would generate confusion if someone wanted to use this kind of notation marks alongside more traditional numbers and the font is switched to something which don’t support it.

Andrew's picture
Offline
Joined: 8 Jan 2007 - 10:28am
0

I too will be reworking an asterisk or two having read this. Thanks

Andrew

John Savard's picture
Offline
Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
0

My perception is that the asterisk used to be six points almost universally - and five-pointed asterisks entered into common visibility with Prestige Elite and certain other IBM Selectric typewriter styles. It was only in the phototypesetter era that the asterisk stopped being a sort, and started to have matching designs for different typefaces, leading to the five-pointed asterisk as being considered more appropriate for some faces (I think, for example, without checking, that Stone and Lucida would use five-pointed asterisks).

Martin Silvertant's picture
Joined: 31 Dec 2009 - 11:51pm
0

I consider it to be a nice fall-back though. It's perhaps not the worst to have to distinguish between two footnotes with each double number you see in the text if the font is being replaced. Though, I agree it's something worth to consider.

Martin Silvertant's picture
Joined: 31 Dec 2009 - 11:51pm
0

I just noticed talk about combining multiple asterisks and Nick's post on the order in which the reference marks should be used according to the old-fashioned system. This leads me to wonder why there hasn't been such hierarchy in the asterisk itself, like so:

Forgive the ugly design. I just wanted to try this out without wasting too much time on the design. I imagined the asterisk transforming from a bullet into a proper asterisk, so the more points are added, the more the symbol takes the shape of an asterisk rather than a bullet. That's why the asterisks are different sizes, because I imagined it starting as a black dot which then spreads and as more white space gets into the black shape, the black becomes more defined and sharper as you go up in the series.

I came to realize the second symbol in the series is very hard to make look good and the bullet is a bad idea as it could be confused with punctuation. A series going from 3 points to 7 does make some sense to me though. I'm not suggesting this is a better system than using superscript numbers for footnotes, but I like the idea of incorporating this system into one of my typefaces.

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0
John Savard's picture
Offline
Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
0

Incidentally, not only am I very much used to six-pointed asterisks from most traditional typefaces, but the five-pointed asterisk has one very distracting association to me.

I can't see one without thinking of it as an APL exponentiation operator.

Martin Silvertant's picture
Joined: 31 Dec 2009 - 11:51pm
0

Riccardo, I still very much like the idea of a black blot slowly growing and taking form of an asterisk, but I must admit your system is clearer and more aesthetic. Very nice thread in general. Thanks for the link.

John Savard's picture
Offline
Joined: 23 Nov 2009 - 8:42pm
0

Asterisks with a variable number of petals are certainly an interesting idea, even if I suspect it is not likely to catch on.

I'm quite familiar with the traditional *†‡§‖¶ sequence, having seen it in many books.

Usually, the convention I've seen is that those symbols are used for footnotes, while superscript numbers are used for references.

If a text is mathematical, or refers to isotopes a lot using the mass number as superscript and atomic number as subscript notation, or for other reasons superscript numbers or letters would lead to confusion, what other options might there be?

One thing might be to use as superscripts the letters of an alphabet not often used in mathematics. The Hebrew alphabet comes to mind. Then there's Armenian or Georgian; one could even use the Japanese katakana syllabary, or the Chinese Zhuyin Fuhao or bopomofo alphabet.

Asterisks with different numbers of petals might not create enough new symbols, so why not also add to the dagger and double dagger a triple dagger (easily confused with a 1401 group mark, admittedly... I can find ⧻ as a Unicode character, but not the vertical version).

Even without new symbols, one could have the sequence *, †, ‡, §, ‖, ¶, **, ††, ‡‡, §§, ‖‖, ¶¶, *†, *‡, *§, *‖, *¶, †*, †‡, †§, †‖, †¶, ‡*, ‡†, ‡§... so a limited symbol repertoire need not be a problem. Note the sequence - first single symbols, then double symbols, then pairs of unlike symbols in a counting/lexicographic order.

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0

I think the thread linked above would be a better place to continue the discussion. And, regarding the triple dagger: http://typophile.com/node/65762

Johan Palme's picture
Offline
Joined: 23 Jan 2011 - 6:07am
0

One potential problem with the petal-count asterisk is that human minds (studies have shown) are only able to inuitively percieve numbers up to four; after that we start counting. So it could be disruptive to the intuitive reading experience. (I'm thinking with shapes at least five and six sides/spokes are probably also intuitively seeable, but after that? Can we automatically tell the difference between a heptagon and a nonegon without counting?)

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0

If I recall correctly, more than counting, we tend to visually assemble elements in groups of four or fewer. So, when the “petals”’ count goes up, it could make sense to compose the glyph out of slightly parted pairs or triplets (or maybe even four-elements groups).
I don’t remember where (if here on Typophile or elsewhere), but some time ago I read something about the same challenge in placing the dots on the faces of a six-sided die.

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0

Thank you. I would be interested in seeing how your proposal work in running text sizes.
Anyway, for all the reasons listed in that thread, I still think it would be a feature worth implementing.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
0

Nice thread (thanks Simon for the heads-up).

Surely the number of points -and the orientation- depend on the font. To me a Didone likes 6, vertical. In my own fonts I tend to use a 5, upside down; the latter because the thing needs help doing its job (getting attention). Sometimes an off-kilter one makes most sense. I can even see a 4 making sense - maybe with strongly flaring ends, like that German cross - what's it called again? Hmmm, how 'about a 3?

The x-height of the font affects these decisions too: when it's big the asterisk can/should be bigger too, which makes a sixer less problematic (in terms of clotting), and reduces the need to make it ask for extra attention (allowing it to be right-side-up).

> six is more man made

Hmmm, snowflakes? Some flowers are sixers too.

> The design of the asterisk may be related to the “f”

Good point.

BTW, just like there's an asterism, we should have a special thing for two asterisks - maybe something where they lock together nicely.

hhp

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
0

Hmmm...

hhp

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
0

just like there’s an asterism, we should have a special thing for two asterisks

There is: ⁑ (Unicode 2051)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
0

Oh.
Has anybody made one - I mean beyond two adjacent asterisks?

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture
Joined: 31 Dec 2009 - 11:51pm
0

Yes, I will give it a serious shot sometime soon when doing one for my Baran typeface. It's a nice feature to implement. Although, I have been wondering how to script that feature. Is it possible at all to script Stylistic Alternates for superscript numbers? I think that might be an elegant solution if it's possible.

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
0

Hrant, that three-point thing is cool!

"maybe with strongly flaring ends, like that German cross"
This?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Cross

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
0

Yup, that's the one.
It would be just the thing in some cases.

hhp

Ben Mitchell's picture
Offline
Joined: 12 Aug 2007 - 4:05pm
0

Ha, there are some fun threads here :)
I prefer five points, rotated like Nick's example above:

This thread has made me realise that I need to pay a little more attention to making the asterisks fit the fonts. Punctuation actually takes quite some work to get right.

Ben Mitchell's picture
Offline
Joined: 12 Aug 2007 - 4:05pm
0

And speaking of which, MS Character Design Standards seems to omit the asterisk, sadly. Sizewise, I'd like to know what general practice is. Anyone?

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

Speak for yourself, Chris! ;-)

Since the asterisk has represented a star as far back as the Sumerian civilization (some 5,000 years ago), the five-pointed version is so familiar to us. There's no reason why some other number of points wouldn't work (although I'd vote for an odd number), but when we see something else, it rates low on the comfort scale.

Chris Lozos's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
0

And here I have been making 6 pointed asterisks for all my fonts :-/
Guess I better get back on the comfort level banmdwagon quick :-)

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture
Offline
Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am
0

Looking through some old specimen books, the six-pointed asterisk seems to be most common traditionally, at least 50% more than five pointed ones. I also saw the occasional oddball with four or eight points.

I usually make them with six points in my own fonts. I write them that way, too. It takes only three strokes.

Jason Campbell's picture
Offline
Joined: 8 Oct 2005 - 11:52am
0

Well, I'd vote for 6 pointed, since it's easier to hint in TrueType, in very small display sizes.

Guess this makes me nuttier than the nuts.

Jason C

paul d hunt's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 May 2005 - 8:44pm
0

Bringhurst actually talks about the asterisk in Elements. If i'm not mistaken, he states that 6 points are more mechanical and fitting to "modern" styles and the 5 pointed version is more orgainic, fitting for calligraphic forms.

Chris Lozos's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
0

I'll vote with Yoda :-)

ChrisL

Simon Daniels's picture
Offline
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
0

Plenty of smalltalk potential in this thread...

"Excuse me, I'm rushing to teach the next workshop on hand tuning five pointed asterix grayscale bitmaps"

Eben Sorkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
0

Well, I’d vote for 6 pointed, since it’s easier to hint in TrueType, in very small display sizes.

Ihad wondered about this but then I saw you they did 5 pts in Myriad & I wasn't so sure. Can you give an example?

I had a quick go looking at who does what:

6: Univers, FranklinG, Interstate, Udo, Petras Script
5: Quadraat Sans, Legato, Lutz Headline, Meta, News Gothic, Ronnia, Tiptoe Toy, Azdindenz, Wunderlich, Clan,

As much as you can draw conclusions there seem to be exceptions. Maybe it's just my skewed sample set but there seem to be far more 5 than 6... And newer fonts seem to favor 5 points. Looking at petras script made me skeptical about Bringhursts' point since it is far easier to make a 3 stroke hash than to make a star by hand...

paul d hunt's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 May 2005 - 8:44pm
0

who said calligraphy was about what's easy?

Eben Sorkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
0

easyPerhaps, but what is more likely or natural? I am still having trouble imagining a 5 pointed asterisk being made by a calligrapher except in imitation of type. Maybe I am just not seeing something I aught to. I think Bringhurst's point may have been a theoretical and aesthetic one rather than a literal one. What do you thin?

Simon Daniels's picture
Offline
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
0

My take or RB's comment is that 5 is more common in nature - you know core of an apple, petals on a flower - that kind of thing. I could be completely wrong...

Eben Sorkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
0

That sounds right - and six is more man made etc. The classic 20th century contrast.

paul d hunt's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 May 2005 - 8:44pm
0

I guess i just associate the 5 with the ultimate caligraphic serif: Palatino.

Jackie Frant's picture
Offline
Joined: 24 Feb 2005 - 9:18am
0

Thanks for the smalltalk generator - I didn't know it existed - but I think it explains how some people choose their topics around... LOL

Mark Simonson's picture
Offline
Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am
0

five pointed asterix

"Ils sont fous ces typographes!"

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

Ah! J'aime Asterix et ses amis!

Perhaps it's a factor of age, but I remember learning to draw two "stars" as a child: one was the one-two-three separate lines forming a six-pointed hash, the other the one-two-three-four-five, all connected. If one connected the points of the latter (and was good at drawing the initial form), one could create a pentagram, with all the potential danger therein.

Simon Daniels's picture
Offline
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
0

>five pointed asterix

Ha, only Mark would have the Gaul to point out my typo ;-)

Choz Cunningham's picture
Offline
Joined: 27 Jun 2006 - 1:30pm
0

There is no "true" answer? This is why type design rules.

Choz Cunningham
!Exclamachine Type Foundry
The Snark

Gustave Moíre's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 Feb 2006 - 6:12pm
0

I remember reading a intesring article a long while back about the Asterisk and it's variant designs dependent on the number of points. From what I remember, it has a lot to do with current cultural trends, and also more specifically to cultural normatives of different societies around the world. Depending on were you are, I think the prefferred number of points varies.

Jason Pagura's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm
0

So, when making a 5 pointed asterisk, which direction do you prefer to point it? One can rotate the angle of a 6 pointed one too, but somehow it seems to matter more with 5 points, at least as I look at it.

Eben Sorkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
0

All of the 5 pointed I have seen so far are star-like with one point straight up unless they were italic or oblique. In the italic they are rotated. In the oblique they are ergh.... obliqued. Let me know if you find a font that diverges from this please - I would be interested.

Choz Cunningham's picture
Offline
Joined: 27 Jun 2006 - 1:30pm
0

Eben, I already decide to make one just to retort. Will post more later.

Choz Cunningham
!Exclamachine Type Foundry
The Snark

Gustave Moíre's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 Feb 2006 - 6:12pm
0

This is a forum to discuss typography; not one where members should attempt to boost page rankings with html signatures.

Eben Sorkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
0

I was confused - post retracted.

paul d hunt's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 May 2005 - 8:44pm
0

Let me know if you find a font that diverges from this please - I would be interested.

did you even look at Palatino?