Font designers Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes, who were also responsible for the popular font Lucida, were behind the whole Wingdings phenomenon: originally, 3 different fonts also under Lucida’s name (Lucida Icons, Lucida Arrows and Lucida Stars) were released, only to eventually become Wingdings as we know it today. We owe this to Microsoft, in fact, who in 1990 bought the rights to all these Lucida icon fonts and included it with a beta version of Windows.
“From the beginning, Wingdings amazed, amused and confused people”
“It turned out that Wingdings caused more excitement than Microsoft expected,” Bigelow says. “Conspiracy theories sprang up that Wingdings contained hidden messages.
” Most famously, Wingdings supposedly contained anti-Semitic messages against New York City
(when users typed “NYC,” the Wingdings for a skull, a star of David, and a thumbs-up appeared). Of course, Bigelow notes that the “hidden messages” were simply an accident of the font conversion process — Microsoft hadn’t considered that users would read the grab bag of Wingdings images as a code for actual letters.
Wingdings as a name is actually a combination of two words: Windows and Dingbat. Windows is an obvious choice for the name, since it shipped with it, but what’s a dingbat?
When using a printing press, printers needed a shortcut when it came to ornamenting their text. Every figure or letter had to be hand-carved and laid out before anything could be printed, so it was too laborious to make a new template for every drawing or figure: dingbats.
There’s a lot more to learn about wingdings, Lucida, and dingbats over at the original Vox article
, so don’t skip this one.