Some of you know that I was a graphic designer and had a small business for 14 years. I don’t mention it often, since despite the artistic aspect those days don’t connect very well with my career as a writer. Mostly that’s because my work was for hire, and my creativity was forcibly channeled into creating marketing material for clients—and art prostituted to the cause of sales is not art, no matter what they say on Madison Avenue.
I hadn’t thought about that past life much until recently. I subscribe to Joel Friedlander’s excellent “The Book Designer,” a daily e-newsletter about the book creation that generally contains useful info in many self-publishing areas. But earlier this week came this: “How to Build a Better Ellipsis with Adobe InDesign.”
That’s right, three dots in a row.
Let me rephrase that: Seriously, who fucking cares?
And if someone cares, then why does s/he care?
The article describes in exhaustive detail the process of determining the amount of space between the dots and the size of the dots, and the how different fonts determine different shapes of dots (like anyone could tell) and how to code that into your book layouts, and why some ellipses look better than others and others are more functional from a layout point of view…
But really it has to do with human nature. You and I may not care, may not see the need for the ultimate ellipsis, but some people do. And the incredible detail with which the creation of ellipses is described in this article is a metaphor that illustrates the human penchant for obsession. Whatever it is we choose to do, we often give the endeavor everything we’ve got, to the exclusion of all other matters, including, in this case, its relative value.
The perfect ellipsis? Can the world go on without this knowledge?
Often the most successful people in our society are the ones who obsess about whatever it is they do, in some blind pursuit of perfection or riches or power, be it directed towards scientific discovery or hitting a baseball or playing the piano or juggling chainsaws.
Obsession can be a great thing, but it is not necessarily a good thing. Obsession without talent and education leads to people who live with 85 cats or dig bomb shelters under their double-wides or create giant balls of string in their backyards. Somewhere in the thought process the obsession manages to block out rationality by disguising it as negativity.
Understanding the potentially obsessive aspect of our nature helps explain everything from our survival as a species, to competition, to great achievements, to murder, to war, to love, to the ability to finish a novel, to writing a blog every week, to… to…
…to our eventual self-destruction as a species?
All this, from a simple ellipsis.
A writer understands that. I wonder how many graphic designers do.
 You’ve maybe heard of the interrobang (?!). I shall call my creation an ellipsibang …!