Introduction by Nancy Upper
While traveling in an airplane on October 3, 2015, David Blatner’s thoughts turned to ampersands. As his mind wandered back to his childhood, he wrote about his relationship with the symbol.
By coincidence, that same day I had emailed Mr. Blatner about my subscription to InDesign Magazine and mentioned that I was writing a book about ampersands.
The following day, Mr. Blatner replied, assuring me that my IDM subscription was on the way, along with the bonus Type SuperGuide for subscribers. He added, “A book! How fun. I love ampersands!”
I asked if he would write an essay about ampersands for the Typography chapter of my book. He sent these thoughts he had written on the airplane.
CONFESSIONS of a CREATIVE PRO
By David Blatner
David Blatner is the co-founder of Creative Publishing Network and the author of 15 books on a variety of topics, including Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and aviation. His most recent book is Spectrums: Our Mind-Boggling Universe From Infinitesimal to Infinity (Walker, 2012). David is also the publisher of InDesign Magazine and CreativePro.com.
As a child, I was fascinated by the ampersand — a single character that implied an idea or a word — a symbol that indicated a concept, like a Chinese or Japanese ideograph, but living in my own native language. Long before Prince adopted a symbol for a name, or before I knew the word glyph, I fell in love with the ampersand.
I tried to draw ampersands of various sorts, but penmanship was never my forte. Perhaps it was my left-handedness, but I couldn’t quite figure out which side of the character to begin drawing. Worse, the tail of my ampersands would inevitably spiral around, leaving me with various mutations of the treble clef symbol I had somehow (more or less) mastered in music lessons. Imagine my delight (and horror!) when I discovered ampersands in the form of a calligraphic “Et” — such as in Goudy, or more amazingly, Goudy Italic.
My childish attempts at this mark resulted in improbable mashups, somewhere between a Sanskrit “om” and a Greek “sigma.”
Could it be that my difficulty drawing an ampersand led me to my love of computer typesetting? What my hand could not achieve (and still cannot, without considerable attention) is just a Shift-7 away, anytime, day or night. Awash in a wealth of ampersands, the irony is thick that I can only choose one at a time instead of
Goudy font family designed in 1915 by Frederic W. Goudy.
Om symbol from Wikimedia Commons.
Sigma from Carter Sans Pro Medium designed in 2010 by Matthew Carter and Dan Reynolds.
The four ampersands in the last line are, from left to right —
Matura Script Capitals designed in 1938 by Imre Reiner.
Monotype Corsiva designed in 1951 by Patricia Saunders.
Eurostile designed in 1962 by Aldo Novarese.
Munc Semibold designed in 2010 by Sumner Stone.