Will the new symbol for ‘the’ work?

12th July 2013 in

I came across a news article a couple days ago where I read that an Australian entrepreneur, Paul Mathis - usually known for his restaurants - had stunned the design world by creating a ligature to replace the word ‘the’.

As a fan of using the ampersand I instantly became excited about being able to use it in my designs, but that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I actually saw the new symbol, and discovered how much was spent on its creation!

Introducing the new ‘the’ ligature:

The new ‘the’ ligature

After seeing it you might be thinking what I was thinking, which was: “This has to be a prank.” Well you’d be wrong.  Mathis has in fact spent somewhere between $34,000 and $68,000 USD developing the new ‘the’.

And I bet now you're thinking: “How on earth has he blown that much money on a symbol which looks like it was created in 5 minutes tops?”

Mathis’s reasoning behind the design of the ‘the’ ligature are:

  • ‘The’ is used approximately 80% of the time in all written paragraphs, so why not have a ligature
  • The ligature will end up saving pen strokes
  • Saves space
  • Makes texting and Tweeting faster (you might just be able to squeeze in an extra few characters into your 140 character tweet).

But in his design of the symbol there are a few pitfalls which I think make it totally unusable.  These are:

  • The first problem is that the ligature isn’t a ligature of ‘the’ it’s a ligature of ‘th’
  • Nobody really knows what the ligature is supposed to be. It doesn’t increase readability if it isn’t familiar, other than the symbol giving you two extra characters on Twitter I don’t really see a purpose in it.
  • It’s very clunky to write with a pencil or pen and will most likely end up looking crooked.
  • The worst point about the ligature is that it is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye in the slightest. It looks out of place, especially when used in a line of mostly lower-case letters.
  • Lastly this character already exists and is a Serbian character, which has a lower and uppercase option: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tshe

I have put together an example for you to look at so you make up your own mind. 

example for you to look at

Would you consider using Mathis’ Th ligature? Do you think it’s a good $34,000 spent? Let us know your thoughts in a comment. I look forward to finding out what our readers think of the new symbol. 

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