6 April 2022
The ampersand is a written character that represents a word, or a "logogram." You may notice that it sometimes looks like an "e" and a "t," in some instances. Well that's because it is! It originated as a ligature of the letters "et," Latin for "and." (As a French speaker, I see the French word "et," which means "and.")
The Romans first drew this ligature, most likely sometime before 79 CE. The image directly above shows how the ampersand has evolved from 131 to 810 CE. Since the ampersand's roots go back to Roman times, many languages that use a variation of the Latin alphabet make use of it as a stand-in for the word "and."
For centuries it was regarded as the 27th letter of the English alphabet, which helped it get its own name. Traditionally, when reciting the alphabet in English-speaking schools, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself was repeated with the Latin expression "per se" ("by itself.") Eg: "A per se A."
The recitation of the alphabet would always end in X, Y, Z, "& per se &". This phrase was routinely slurred to "ampersand." By 1837 the term had entered common English.
French “esperluette” may have a similar origin, “et per lui et”. The German name, in typical straightforward German fashion, is simply “Et-Zeichen” (“et symbol”).
Type designers often put a lot of work into the ampersand and designers usually love to use them. So much can be done! For example, an ampersand in one typeface, can often look great set alongside another, completely different typeface. To note, typographic guidance says to only use ampersands in headers or logos. In body copy ampersands tend to stand out too much, disrupting the flow of the eye across a page.
28 July 2021
Developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger with input from Eduard Hoffmann, this typeface, very quickly, became one of the most popular typefaces of the 20th century.Originally named Neue Haas Grotesk, it was changed to Helvetica which is "Swiss" in Latin. This capitalised on Switzerland's reputation as a centre of ultra-modern graphic design and helped to sell the typeface abroad.Helvetica provided something that designers wanted: a neutral typeface apparently devoid of personality, that had great clarity, and could be used on a wide variety of signage. Indeed it's featured on signage from the New York subway to previous South Korean and Japanese road signs.Helvetica has also been used for countless logos (please see the image above).Versions exist for Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Khmer, and Vietnamese alphabets. Chinese faces have been developed to complement Helvetica.Derivative designs based on Helvetica were rapidly developed, taking advantage of the lack of copyright protection in the phototypesetting font market of the 1960s onward. One could argue that such a trend has remained ongoing.As you may know from our previous newsletter, Arial was created for IBM to substitute for Helvetica—without IBM having to pay Linotype for a Helvetica license on its printers.IBM used Helvetica Neue as its corporate typeface until 2017. Like many big corporations, IBM now has its own bespoke typeface, saving over $1m annually on licensing fees.If you have a Mac, it probably came with Helvetica installed and licensed. This shot Helvetica into the hands of everyone, not only designers, helping to maintain its popularity and relevance over the decades.Here at MOTHandRUST, we don't tend to use Helvetica, as it is so overused—the American designer and design historian Paul Shaw puts it best: "Helvetica is an invasive and drug-resistant species that may never be eradicated. Even designers who don't often use it in their own work take pride in the fact that it is such a persistent cultural icon."
9 April 2021
The "Caslon," typeface was designed by William Caslon I (1692–1766,) Britain's first and most celebrated typefounder. Caslon is used to set the quote above.
Ironically, rather than using an American font, the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence is set in Caslon. This may have been the influence of Benjamin Franklin. Not only was he a scientist and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America—he was also a printer. He loved the fonts made by William Caslon so much that he hardly used anything else.
Caslon has been revived at various times over the past 300 years, and it continues to be a standard in typography even to this day. Here at MOTHandRUST, it is one of our favourites. It is perfect for something timeless; it will never look dated. It is versatile and can work for most applications. For a more current look, it pairs nicely with modern typefaces. And it’s just beautiful.
15 February 2019RICHARD PRINCE joke seriesHi MLE, How the written word can be used to convey a message, not only literally, but also visually, as always been a bit of an obsession for me. Religious calligraphy, dada poetry, even people’s handwriting… So, when Richard Prince’s “Early Joke Paintings” came to London, at the Skarstedt Gallery, I had to check it out.Spanning the period from 1988 - 1992, the format for each joke it always the same. Each joke is isolated on a large canvas, painted in plain block letters against a field of colour.On a canvas in a gallery, they seem strangely out of context. The jokes get repeated, reframed. They go from funny to not funny to annoying.As Time Out's Eddy Frankel said, "Maybe the joke’s on us. And if it is, then it’s absolutely hilarious."I noticed that one of these paintings sold recently for $2.5 USD. If I had the cash, I would definitely invest.Have a nice weekend!Suzan