24 January 2017
The ampersand is an interesting symbol because its origins lie in a ligature.
Tracing back to the Latin word ‘et’ meaning ‘and’ it was created when the E and T were joined together, ET evolving over time to become the figure we recognise today ‘&’. In earlier examples it is easier to see the 2 letterforms, the modern day ampersand has morphed into a character in its own right and it is many type designer’s favourite one to draw. The ampersand is a part of every roman font.
The name ampersand came much later than the character itself and derived from a mispronunciation of ‘and, per se and’. When school children were reciting the alphabet they preceded each letter with ‘and, per se and' at that time the '&' was the 27th character of the alphabet. Eventually ‘and, per se and’ slurred into ‘ampersand’ with the word being added to the English dictionary in 1837.
Italic ampersands were a later ligature of E and T, and are also present in modern fonts. These were developed as part of cursive scripts that were developed during the Renaissance. They’re often more formal-looking and fancier than the standard ampersand.
The contemporary version of the symbol, usually has either a connected or open top loop and a diagonal middle stroke followed by a tail. It can be very tricky to get right and demands good eye judgement to achieve a balanced result, especially for darker weights. The ampersand and the lowercase ‘a’ and ‘g’, are considered key characters in the typeface’s personality. They usually derive from the other letters, but that isn’t a fixed rule.
For those not happy with the web-font version online there is Typogrify plugins for some open-source CMS platforms making it incredibly easy to use a custom ampersand on your WordPress or Drupal site.
Below are a few high-end interior brands whose name's require consideration with their ampersand.