An ampersand (or epershand; ‘&‘) is a logogram representing the conjunction word ‘and’. This symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for and’.

I have a little bit of an obsession with ampersands. They are without a doubt my favorite letterform, even though they don’t get used that much. Because of that, however, the design possibilities are endless: Since they’re not used in “everyday use,” designers can be extremely creative and fancy with the letterform that they create. There are an endless number of beautiful letterforms because of that. I’ve always loved ampersands; their peculiarity has always intrigued me, even when I was little. Granted, I couldn’t draw them “properly” until I was in college, but the appreciation was there. I’ve never tried to explain why I like them so much before, but in doing so it’s forcing me to look formally at the different versions of the letterform and to use the knowledge I’ve gained at school to recognize those ampersands which work the best in the design sense.

The main surviving use of the ampersand is in the formal names of businesses (especially firms and partnerships, particularly law firms, architectural firms, and stockbroker firms). It is also used aesthetically in movie titles, and in credits to associate collaborations. They’re also common among other type nerds as a favorite design exercise. For example, this past September I designed an ampersand logogram as a woodcut for my printmaking elective.

The photo here is a letterpress print of and ampersand designed by Jessica Hische. She’s incredibly talented, and currently works freelance in New York City. She previously worked for Louise Fili Ltd. as junior designer, and with the help of her boss, Louise Fili herself, Hische was able to branch off on her own and has been successful since leaving in fall 2009.

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