Sunday, October 26, 2014

Design notes: the ampersand ( & )

The ampersand (especially its italic form) is one of those glyphs that sees fairly little usage but for whatever reason type designers love obsessing over.

The ampersand, like the question mark, percent sign, and several other punctuation marks evolved from, you guessed it, a ligature—in this case, an ‘Et’ ligature—Latin/French for “and”. In most typefaces, the ‘E’ and ‘t’ have become so tangled up in each other that they are barely recognizable (italic ampersands are much more reminiscent of the ‘Et’). The pretzel-like form of the ampersand is very difficult to describe—your best bet is to just “look” at ampersands and try to copy them. The symbol has a leg that resembles the leg on the ‘R’, and its two bowls are more asymmetrical versions of the ones on the numeral ‘8’. It also contains a serif on its arm, which is similar to the one on the ‘v’ and rather unremarkable except that it is usually skewed with the longer side facing inward. Ampersands are usually the capital height, but have the stroke weight of the lowercase letters.
An ampersand from Floribunda