To me, the ampersand is the most beautiful, interesting and powerful character in the English language. Beautiful because it comes in so many forms and fashions that explore its curved and elegant lines. Interesting as it is steeped in history. Powerful because it is a standalone character with a distinct and inclusive meaning: and.
I was very excited to learn that the ampersand’s origins have been traced back to Pompeii - a town about 4 miles from where I grew up in Italy. Somehow this makes me feel some sort of personal affinity with the ampersand and I love it even more!
It is said the earliest found record of an ampersand was by a 1st century 'graffiti artist' who wrote in old roman cursive on the walls of Pompeii. At the time, the letter E and T were written together to form a ligature. This is what we now know as the ampersand. (Please excuse my very brief skim over history to find the bits I was interested in! For more info, there is some awesome geekery to indulge in over at Shady Characters)
The humble ampersand has this wonderful ability to bring things together. Placed between two things, two words, it will impart a magnetic force on them, holding them in place and keeping them together. I recently read it was the "typographical equivalent of a wedding ring, used to mark permanent partnerships”, which I thought was such a lovely metaphor for the ampersand.
The ampersand's capacity for being a connective force has not gone unnoticed either. Aside from being a popular tool for graphic artists, the ampersand has and is also being used in more heartwarming, charitable ways. 7 years ago, The Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA) rounded up 400 artists in 2010 to create a font called ‘Coming Together’, which is made up entirely of ampersands “to represent the idea of people coming together”. The font raised money to benefit Haitian earthquake victims. I love this.
I use ampersands in my artwork at lot in my monograms, to mark the partnership between two people. Recently, I also undertook some branding work for Before&Again where I created an ampersand for Rida, who is the creative force behind the blog.
The ampersand I created was filled with flowers and two tiny butterflies to represent her children, as her blog is centered on motherhood, and she features lots of flowers and nature in her photography.
This ampersand was hand drawn digitally on the iPad Pro using an apple pencil. I made it in two colour ways: black and white.
We decided to include Rida’s own handwriting around the ampersand. Rida has a huge instagram following, which she had long before setting up her website, and she sometimes uses her handwriting to digitally write on her instagram stories, so it seemed fitting to continue this brand identity she had build on her instagram and extend this into the new website.
I fused Rida’s own handwriting of the words ‘before’ and ‘again’ to the ampersand to give her logo a truly personal feel.
To see the final design chosen for the website branding, head on over to Before&Again