By Jonny Gibson
These days everybody knows about the ampersand. It’s one of typography’s most unique and interesting characters.
Its rise to hipster fame has catapulted the ampersand from the sketchbooks of type designers onto just about every printable surface you can imagine, the variations of which seem endless. From traditional representations all the way to hyper-stylised forms that bear little resemblance to the original mark.
The varied nature of its form allows type designers a little creative freedom, and is often seen as an opportunity to inject some extra personality into a typeface. Officially classified as punctuation by todays unicode, it was in fact, once the 27th letter in the English alphabet existing as the graphical representation of the word ‘and’.
Designers in all fields both love and hate the ampersand in equal measure, but very few know much about its history, or intended use, which is actually rather interesting.
A Brief History of The Glyph
So there you have it. The history of the worlds most famous character*.
You may find that, like me, you will never be able to look at an & in the same way again. This is both a blessing and a curse. However, as with all cycles of fashion and trend, we are beginning to see a resurgence of the original et-ligature, replacing the modern & form. As more type designers become aware of the history of this expressive little glyph, the desire to re-introduce it has grown. Keep your eyes peeled and spread your new found knowledge.
*obligatory outlandish claim