The little goose feet

Guillimets 002A


Upon christening this new blog—dedicated to the discussion and criticism of graphic design—I feel the need to explain the title: Little Goose Feet (or, Gänsefüßchen in German).

I spent the summer of 2013 designing a book that explores the connections between three famous typeface designers: Adrian Frutiger, Akira Kobayashi and Hermann Zapf (shown left-to-right).

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One of the most enjoyable parts of the project was reading through multiple books on each designer. They have each led fascinating lives, and have all contributed so much to the world of typography, and to design. As I read through Zapf’s book About Alphabets. Some Marginal Notes on Type Design, I noticed that he used a peculiar mark to denote a direct quote.

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(Photo credit: Patrick Gosnell)

I brought this to the attention of my professor (who, like Zapf, also happens to be German). Below is a paraphrased version of our conversation:

Me: He uses some funky, pointy things whenever there’s a quote!

Professor: Those aren’t »funky things«, that’s how we do it in Germany!

Me: Oh. Well that’s cool then.

The mark in question is the guillimet: « » They are French quotation marks and typically points outwards from the ends of a quote, like this: He said, «What is this?»

Germans, however, reverse their direction to point in towards the quote, and also refer to them as Gänsefüßchen, which, as my professor so kindly informed me, means »little goose feet«.

Guillimets 001

This discovery led to changing many aspects of my book to be more in line with German typesetting norms. I have always loved English grammar rules, and this was now a new challenge to familiarize myself with similar practices from another culture. In fact, I’ve come to prefer the »little goose feet« as compared to our standard American quotation marks, and continue to use them in all of my more recent design work.

Who knew a little glyph could make someone so happy?

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(Photo credit: Patrick Gosnell)

About the Author

Patrick Gosnell is a graduate student and teacher at Texas State University San-Marcos. He has a background in fine art photography, and currently focuses on international typographic practices. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and daughter. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog, TYPEATX.


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