It is common belief that the term 'dingbat' originated as onomatopoeia in old style metal-type print shops - ding was the sound made by hitting (bat'ing) the ornaments attached to the printer's chase before inking, in order to fill any undesirable blank space near the texts blocks or to the illustrations.

In 'The Elements of Typographic Style', Canadian poet and typographer Robert Bringhurst clarifies that "many dingbats are pictograms - tiny pictures of churches, airplanes, skiers, telephones, and the like, used in the tourist industry. Others are more abstract symbols - check marks, crosses, cartographic symbols, the emblems of the suits of playing cards, and so on". As a typographic element, the dingbat now finds itself as part of alphabets, being either integrated to a basic group of characters or acting independently. The technological advances beginning in the 1980s saw a progressive proliferation of digital alphabets exclusively composed by symbols, shapes and illustrations.

The DINGBATS BRASIL exhibition compiles a selection of Brazilian symbol fonts produced between 1996-2006, featuring works that use drawings and pictorial representation as main tools of communication. The themes of most of the exhibited projects emanate from a broad cultural sphere, and they are carried in a comprehensive bunch of languages and styles - which reflect the diversity of Brazilian contemporary graphic arts. The initiatives of rescuing and registering aspects of Brazilian culture - music, religion, art, sports, culinary and even design itself - could be understood as a premeditate or unintentional way of popularizing the Brazilian-way-of-life through graphic design.

The four fonts of the MANGUEBATS family, displayed in columns.

The MANGUEBATS(2003) type family is undeniably one of the best examples of that. It explores iconography elements of the 'Mangue Beat' movement, originated in the State of Pernambuco in the 1990s. MANGUEBATS was commissioned by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service - SEBRAE to be used in Pernambuco's industry, commerce and general services. It originated from the recognition of 26 icons of the movement which were then submitted to four different graphic treatments.


MANGUEBATS 1 - by Leonardo Buggy and Plínio Uchôa Moreira - is the one that best explores humor and free lines. MANGUEBATS 2 - by Leonardo Buggy and Gustavo Gusmão - follows a cleaner, geometric and minimalist style. To these principles were added angular lines and urban, technological and cybernetic references in MANGUEBATS 3 - by Buggy, Bosco and Kboco. MANGUEBATS 4 - by por Bosco, Buggy, Gustavo Gusmão and Plínio Uchôa Moreira - approaches in a more realistic way the vocabulary of the photocopied fanzines with high contrast black and white pictures. In 2004 the project was selected for the 1st Letras Latinas Typography Biennial, the 2nd Pernambuco Design Salon and was awarded the jury's Merit Trophy at the 7th Brazilian Graphic Design Biennial.

Arranged in columns and surrounded by RUPESTRE characters: CABRA DA PESTE, ARTESANATO and SERTÃO.

Elements of the Northeast region of Brazil have also spawned CABRA DA PESTE (2000) - by Brasília-born and Recife-based Diego Credidio - and SERTÃO (2003) - by Rio de Janeiro's Rafo Castro. CABRA DA PESTE presents archetypal folk characters - and a few typical fauna and flora elements- with graphic resemblance to the ones found in artifacts and popular paintings; whereas SERTÃO is directly influenced by the popular woodblock printed Cordel books by noted artists such as J. Borges and Marcelo Soares. Rafo - who did the dingbats book Pictorama (2003) as the Final Major Project of his BA in Graphic Design from Rio's UniverCidade - focuses on the cultural manifestations and the struggle of the North and Northeast regions of Brazil in ARTESANATO (2003). In this font, Rafo portraits typical ceramics from the Island of Marajós and hand made baskets, as well as figures and icons like the berimbau (Capoeira's musical instrument), the figa (traditional lucky charm) and the carranca (superstitious wooden sculptures) of Amazonian boats. RUPESTRE (1996) - by Chris Lee, from Rio de Janeiro, for the fonthouse Blindfonts - is made out of images traced by designer Marcello Rosauro from stone inscriptions dating back over 5000 years, which were found in the Ingá archaeological site in the State of Paraíba.

RODA D'ÁGUA's logo & dingbats.

In similar manner, a rather faithful depiction of the Brazilian cuisine can be found in RODA D'ÁGUA (2000), by Marcelo Martinez and Fernanda Valverde. The font was developed as part of a visual identity project by Porto+Martinez designStudio for the restaurant of the same name in Cabo Frio. All the items available in the menu - from wood oven baked pizzas, seafood dishes, deserts, coffees and juices to the house wines and homemade cachaças - were graphically reproduced in this font, for exclusive use by the restaurant. Also an exclusive font, RURALDINGS (2000) - by typographer Priscila Farias, from São Paulo - was commissioned by Globo Rural magazine. It objectively represents the various iconographic nuances of Brazil's countryside (with obvious emphasis in animals), catering specifically for the different sections of the publication.

RURALDINGS, exclusively licensed to Globo Rural magazine.


Mystical and mythological beliefs - another strong cultural aspect in Brazil - are approached in distinct (and even antagonistic) ways in MÁSCARAS ORIXÁS (2003) - by Lais Carvalho and Rafo Castro - and FOLCLORE (2003)- by Rafo Castro and Paulo Visgueiro. The contrast between the two fonts is clear, specifically in the visual styles. The elegant set of faces in MÁSCARAS ORIXÁS boasts unity and sensitivity - which is rather appropriate since African art, a precursor of the tradition of masks, is often recognized by its form and aesthetics. Quite in the opposite direction, the cartoon-like characters of FOLCLORE can reach different size proportions, since they haven't been shaped from the same mould: some characters might take on the manner of Disney figures, while others seem to jump out of a Ren&Stimpy cartoon. This isn't necessarily a disadvantage as it surprisingly brings a mainstream look to the Brazilian fables gallery of rogues: Boitatá, Boi da Cara Preta, Boto, Saci, Cuca, Mula-sem-Cabeça etc.

The mystic creatures of FOLCLORE framed by FATOR N.

Other hideous creatures can also be found in ÃGLIFEICES (1998) - by Marcelo Martinez - (that was awarded Bronze in the 2nd Tipografia Brasilis Show in 2001) or in the viral FATOR N (1997) - by Filipe Chiminazzo, for Rio de Janeiro's fonthouse Subvertaipe.

Different cartoon styles in ÃGLIFEICES and HERCULES.

However, a cartoon's purpose is not solely confined to the grotesque or the amusement. Cartoonist Fabio Zimbres developed in collaboration with Priscila Farias the font HERCULES (2001), moving away from the irregularity and the use of textures which are strong features of his illustration style. Exceptionally geometric and light, this font maintain intact its structural repertoire and playful aspect. Priscila Farias herself created the energetic CRYPTOCOMIX (1997) making creative use of comic book's language. Distributed by the North American fonthouse T26, the vowels in this font are characters that vary its expressions according to use of accentuation and variations between upper and lower cases. For example: a, A, á and Á are in fact the same characters but with different expressions. The consonants, however, are words and the variations of a consonant +shift, +option and +shift-option are synonyms or words and expressions that have a similar meaning. Some of the 'punctuation keys' are objects or different scenes of a same environment (i.e. the deep sea, fish, shell, octopus, etc). They also vary according to the use of +shift, +option and +shift-option.

A mix of characters and expressions in the complex CRYPTOCOMIX.

Editorial illustrations turned into dingbats: PICTOFONT.

Also in 1997, Claudio Rocha, typographer and co-editor of Tupigrafia magazine, developed PICTOFONTE 1, which is a collection of not-so-corporate dingbats. He also encouraged the multi-talented artist Guto Lacaz to transform 10 years of his editorial illustrations (for columnist Joyce Pascovitch, in Folha de São Paulo) into the PICTOFONT (1997). Those images have been used in t-shirts, metal sculptures and in his illustration book Desculpe a letra. Four years later, illustrator and typedesigner Tony de Marco - owner of São Paulo's fonthouse Just in Type and the other half of the Tupigrafia editorial team - did the same with his Folha de São Paulo vector illustrations and transformed them into REX DINGBATS.

PICTOFONTE 1 in blue, REX DINGBATS in red.

Also part of this originated by illustration group are Rafo Castro's FAMÍLIA DINGS (2000) and CRIANÇA DINGS (2000) which portraits the daily life of a Brazilian family, their relationships and behavior.

The complementary fonts FAMÍLIA DINGS and CRIANÇA DINGS.

Out of a manual, ELETRODOME e AUTORAMA.

Rafo Castro kept exploring Brazilian quotidian through home objects in ELETRODOME (2001), AUTORAMA (2003) and CADEIRAS (2003). While the first two fonts have the precise drawings of an instruction manual, the third one presents silhouettes of chairs by famous Brazilian designers such as Sérgio Rodrigues, Joaquim Tenreiro, Humberto and Fernando Campana.

CADEIRAS, quite conveniently at the Maurice Valansi Chair Museum of Rio de Janeiro.

The four fonts of PLANTS OF MINE family.

The same representation method can be found in the dingbats family PLANTS OF MINE (2005) - by Marina Chaccur. The São Paulo graphic designer developed PLANTS OF MINE four fonts as part of her Masters final project (Typographic Ornaments - The evolution of type decoration in print) at the London College of Communication. Nevertheless, the silhouette-portrait technique becomes truer to its 18th Century origins in the dingbats that portray a number of physical activities (some of international origin) practiced in Brazil: the Afro-Brazilian martial dance CAPOEIRA (2003) - by Rafo Castro, KARATÊ (2001) - by Rafael Dietzsch, YOGA (2003) - by Júlio César Aguiar and Rafo Castro, BHARATA NATYAM (2001) - by Rafael Dietzsch in collaboration with Daniel Grilo, and PUTAS (2003) - by Rafo Castro.

The characters of CAPOEIRA (in green), KARATÊ (in pink), YOGA (in yellow), BHARATA NATYAM (in blue) and PUTAS (in white) in social interaction.

In this world of modern hieroglyphs, art imitates life through wonderful artificial images.

. . . . . . .


Concept, curatorship, text and design_ Bruno Porto
Art direction_ Bruno Porto + Billy Bacon + Rafo Castro
Graphic designers_ Amanda Lianza + Sarah Stutz
Translation_ Rafael Freire & Sarah Stutz + Karen Xu & Vanessa Zhao
Produced by_ IAV - Instituto de Artes Visuais (RJ) + Lio Flores | Creative Connect (SH)
Prints_ Studio Alfa (RJ, SP, Colômbia, Venezuela) + NDesign (AM, SC) + Rapid Digiart (SH)
Rio de Janeiro exhibition glassdoors by YDEA Design (RJ)
Exhibition photos in the catalog by João Clávio (RJ) + Raquel Brumana (SP)
BlogMaster-of-the-Universe_ Tiagón El Rey Casagrande
Exhibition logo designed with No Hole - Eroll (Leonardo Eyer / Nuketype, 1999).

Kind support has been provided by Studio Alfa, the Brazilian Graphic Designers Association - ADG Brasil, YDEA Design, VIP Papers, Revista DESIGNE, Revista Tupigrafia, Tipocracia Estado Tipográfico, Associação dos Profissionais de Design de Pernambuco, Instituto de Diseño Darias, Istituto Europeo di Design, Porto+Martinez Booksonthetable, WeDo Encontros com Design, Revista Vizoo, 2AB Editora, Museu da Cadeira do Espaço Cultural Maurice Valansi, Coidigra, NDesign, verbeat.org, Latina, Ypióca, Synergy Group, Build., The Foundry, Creative Connect and the Consulate-General of Brazil in Shanghai.

Special thanks to all those mentioned or credited above + André Stolarski, Andy Lawrence, Adriana Campos, Beatriz Assumpção, Brent Beisher, Bruno Batella, Carlos M. Horcades, Chen Hangfeng, Dan Bignold, David Fox, Domingo Villalba, Edson & Eliane Chaccur, Emerson Lehmann, Eugenio Scoletta, Evando Abreu, Fabiane Medeiros, Fernanda Martins, Françoise Techio, Guilherme Bonder, Gustavo Ferreira, Gustavo Piqueira, Isabel Thees, Itamar Medeiros, Jandira Madeira, João de Souza Leite, João Ferraz, João Lutz, Juan Carlos Darias, Jun Taichi, Leandro Gejfinbein, Leonardo Eyer, Lyn Yang, Luciana Belmok, Luiz Eduardo Carvalho, Marco Kato, Ambassador Marcos Caramuru de Paiva, Marcos Buccini, Milena Benevento, Moema Cavalcanti, Paulo Ji, Priscila Liu, Rafael Camara, Raquel Brumana, Ricardo Leite, Richard Valansi, Ruth Klotzel, Sam Moon 王涌君, Simon Richards, Thiago Martins, Tiagón Casagrande, Todd Gill, Winston Ling, Vanda de Paula & the Raffles Design Institute - Shanghai's Visual Communication crew.

. . . . . . .

_ Galeria da Lagoa | Rio de Janeiro RJ Brazil
04.05 - 23.05.2006

_ Istituto Europeo di Design | São Paulo SP Brazil
16.06 - 27.07.2006

_ IV COIDIGRA | Bogotá Colombia
31.10 - 03.11.2006

_ 17º NDesign | Florianópolis SC Brazil
15.07 - 21.07.2007

_ 18º NDesign | Manaus AM Brazil
01.06 - 07.06.2008

_ Centro Cultural Tulio Febres Cordero | Mérida Venezuela
29.10 - 02.11.2008

_ The Foundry | Shanghai China
09.05 - 13.06.2009

_ Icograda World Design Congress | Beijing China
26.10 - 06-11.2009

_ Galeria Venezolana de Diseño | Caracas Venezuela
30.04 - 15.08.2010