Jeff Portaro’s Dog & Pony Show


Introduction by Nancy Upper

During research for my forthcoming book, Power of Ampersand, I discovered this November 2013 design by Jeff Portaro on Instagram. Power of Ampersand will feature a spread titled, “Parade of Animal Ampersands.” I wanted Portaro’s Dog & Pony in the Parade. I wrote to him requesting reprint permission, a high-resolution jpeg of the image, a few lines about what inspired him to create his animal ampersand, and how he created it.

Within 24 hours, Portaro emailed all I asked for, plus the bonus image of a page from his sketchbook. The sketches give us a rare view into Portaro’s imagination.



By Jeff Portaro, Designer & Photographer   23 January 2018

Have you ever heard a phrase and wondered what it would look like? Yeah, me too. This is my interpretation of the phrase “Dog & Pony Show” and what better way to put the two together than everyone’s favorite typographic mark — the ampersand!

The history behind the Dog & Pony ampersand is that I created it out of pure fun. As designers and artists, we are often faced with the task of presenting our work to clients — what one could call a Dog & Pony Show, which Merriam-Webster defines as “an elaborate or overblown affair or event.” I thought that it would be fun to combine the dog and pony together as a visual pun of the term.

Page from Jeff Portaro’s sketchbook

The artwork was created in Adobe Illustrator. This image from my sketchbook shows some of the early ideas. I continue to make “ampersanimals,” but they still live in my sketchbook pages. One by one they will find their way out.

Jeff Portaro

Cotton Bureau graphic tee


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