Dingbats for Book Design: Fonts or Graphics?

I used to prefer using font-based dingbats for book design elements in InDesign and Quark because they are easier to work with than dingbats that are graphic-based, such as eps, tiff, or jpeg files.

This approach worked for many years, but now that most books are being converted to EPUB/eBooks, the font-based dingbats are showing up in the unedited EPUB files as odd-looking keystrokes without the font attributes.

You can try embedding the fonts in the EPUB file to make the dingbats show up, but so far I have had better luck not embedding fonts when making EPUB from InDesign CS 4 or CS5.

I have two methods for removing dingbats from books that are typeset in InDesign:

1. Remove the keystrokes remaining from the fonts from the xhtml files in Dreamweaver (or another xhtml editor)

2. Create a new set of InDesign files with the dingbats removed before making the EPUB file

If you do want the dingbats to appear in the EPUB/eBook, one method is to convert the dingbats into eps files (using Adobe Illustrator) before placing them into InDesign. There are several other file types that will work, but I prefer eps files for image quality. The dingbat file has to be high resolution so that it looks good in the printed book.

Many dingbats are sold as high-resolution graphic files, but a lot of the books I typeset use font-based dingbats in design templates that were developed by publishers long before print books began to be converted into eBooks.

I have no doubt that the design standards and possibilities of eBooks will continue to evolve, and that people will come to expect and appreciate eBook design that doesn’t look like it was typeset in an early version of Microsoft Word!

Thank you! Andrea