In December 2012, on Dribbble (with three “b”s), the online community where graphic designers, web designers, illustrators, and photographers showcase new work, I discovered an unusual ampersand. It appeared to tell the story of life. The designer, Australian Matt Vergotis, wrote beneath his ampersand:
“A little weekend practising, I thought I’d marry up an ampersand + love heart with a little training wheel to keep it from toppling over.
It’s nice to have a job that doesn’t feel like work.”
Viewers’ comments hailed from New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California; Limerick, Ireland; Cape Town, South Africa; Black River, Mauritia; Oradea, Romania, and the Slovak Republic. The design struck a global chord.
I emailed Vergotis, told him I was writing a book about the ampersand, and asked his permission to use his love-heart ampersand in my book. He replied:
I did a little google search and found a book you may have written, “Ballet Dancers in Career Transition”. Is this one of yours? Reason why I ask is my sister was a soloist for the Australian Ballet company and retired a few years back. She’s now a mum but I know how tricky it was for her coming off the high of being a performer and trying to work out what the next move would be.
Anyway, thought I’d purchase it for her Christmas present which would make this a fortunate stroke of serendipity. (I’ve always wanted to use that word)
We exchanged friendly emails. Vergotis sent his permission with high-resolution textured and non-textured versions of his love-heart ampersand.
I endorsed a copy of my book, Ballet Dancers in Career Transition: Sixteen Success Stories (McFarland, 2004), with a message to his sister Camilla. I wrapped the book prettily and shipped it to arrive at Vergotis’s address by December 23, 2012. I gave it free of charge, from one former dancer to another, connected across the globe by the ampersand.
Connector may be the ampersand’s time-honored role, but my current book, Power of Ampersand, proves that the symbol plays far beyond its script. Vergotis’s love-heart ampersand plays with life.
As a ligature of e and t, from the Latin et (and), his ampersand mimics attraction. The heart hovering close to the t motif shows the chemistry acting between the two letters. As the bond grows, their heads cuddle close, foretelling the letters’ marriage.
The lower interior swirl looks like a womb, and the training wheel implies a child. It also implies education or experience that prepares us to act on our own. The interplay of lines and solids, light and shadows, figure and ground, undulates Vergotis’s ampersand, as life undulates, between action and rest.
To complement the textured love-heart ampersand shown above, Vergotis attached to his Dribbble page the “clean” version below. Its bright forms emphasize the interplay of contrasts.
Beautifully balanced, with a tingle of risk to them, Vergotis’s love-heart designs remind us that every ampersand has hidden depths.