An Unlikely Hanging Quote Mark

Jeremy Frank, UI Development Director

Article Category: #Design & Content

Posted on

On a recent project, the blockquote style that the designer put together seemed to be using a different typeface for the hanging quote mark, than for the text. The text below is set in Lato and you can clearly see the difference in the comp version on the left and the Lato quote mark on the right.

Don’t Waste Time, Just Ask The Designer

After spending some time unsuccessfully trying to find a typeface match for the quote mark, I asked the designer. It turns out that the custom quote mark IS set in Lato. However, it’s simply two commas doubled up next to each other and rotated 180°. We actually can do this in CSS by using a few different tricks, but first, the base styling.

Base Styling + Rotation

Writing the CSS to style and position a hanging quote mark is pretty straightforward. Nothing too complicated here, but note the content and transform properties below (vendor prefixes omitted for brevity).

blockquote p {
  font-size: 24px;
  line-height: 1.5;
  font-family: LatoItalic, sans-serif;
  margin: 0 0 .7em;

blockquote p:first-child:before {
  content: ',,';
  display: block;
  float: left;
  font-size: 2.6em;
  line-height: 1;
  margin-left: -.6em;
  transform: rotate(180deg);

Of course this won’t work so well in browsers that don’t support CSS transforms, but we can easily test for support using Modernizr, and provide a similar and acceptable fallback.

.no-csstransforms blockquote p:first-child:before {
  content: '“';

And there we have it; unconventional custom hanging quote marks using commas, without resorting to using images, extra webfonts or custom icon fonts.

Other Possibilities

Using transforms on individual characters like this can magically make additional characters available for use, such as: rotating single and double “angled” quotation marks (‹, «, », ›) 90° to create up and down pointers. It’s also quite possible that rotating stacked characters from :before and :after pseudo-elements, can produce some interesting iconography. However, with minor rendering inconsistencies among different platforms, browsers and typefaces, that level of complexity would warrant the use of an svg icon or a custom built icon font instead.

Jeremy Frank

Jeremy is a UI Development Director who bridges the gap between design and engineering, with a focus on optimizing web performance and enhancing accessibility.

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