Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“Amper-what?”: the origin of a symbol

For a recent naming assignment we were working on, the “@” symbol and the “&” symbol came up in conversation. I’ve always loved the typographic character of the “and” symbol, known as the ampersand. The symbol is one of the oldest alphabetic abbreviations and dates back to Roman times. It evolved from the Latin word et, which means and. If you’ve ever noticed elaborate (italic) styles of ampersands, the Et letterforms are quite visible in the design. Ampersands were traditionally used for display (larger) work, as opposed to smaller, longer format texts, so the designs were more creative and elaborate. Over time, and with the creation of modern sans-serif styles, the symbol has become simplified and less ornate.