Ampersands With Attitude


By Huw Wilkins

Ampersands have long been the character in a typeface with which typographers can indulge themselves. Sweeping curves, flirtatious finishes and bold statements – these are the things that make ampersands an exciting character to use and, better still, to design.

Ampersands with attitude?1

Can you spot what typeface is used to display the ampersand in the image above? Large view2

There are, however, two problems. The first is that the English language gives us few situations to use such a daring character. We seldom get to show off these beautiful examples of typography. The second is that the poor little ampersand so often goes unnoticed.

Allow me to share with you my top 10 different styles of ampersands. Some are similar, but each have their own personality. In an effort to limit my sample selection, I have only chosen ampersands from freely available sans fonts.

1. Nilland


Here we have a pretty run-of-the-mill ampersand. It comes from the font Nilland3. You see this style in common fonts like Helvetica and Arial. It has the classic one piece figure-of-eight body. The little horizontal tail finishes this character off nicely, it seems to give a certain perkiness that it otherwise might have lacked.

2. Bitstream Vera Sans


You might recognise this style as well. This particular character comes from Bitstream Vera Sans4. There are a few ways to look at this ampersand, and this is one of the reasons this character works so well. It looks like the ampersand above, only with the top right side of the figure-of-eight cut out (yet it actually ends up not looking very much like the above character). It also looks like a sweeping back-to-front 3 with a extension from the middle (you can see this better if you turn your head so your left ear is pressed against your shoulder).

3. BPmono


This is where things start to get a little weird. Is it a ‘g’ gone wrong? Is it a swan? Is it a fishing hook? Actually it’s the ampersand from BPmono5. I probably shouldn’t have likened it to a swan and a fish hook, because now you’re probably having a hard time seeing it for what it is… a sweet little ampersand with a cute tucked in style.

4. Kontrapunkt


Here we have another style entirely. It’s an evolution of what you might see in handwriting. However, on paper the line would be drawn down the middle of the ‘E’ shape. This is the font Kontrapunkt6, so it’s been given angles and a lovely boldness.

5. Diavlo


Diavlo7 is a great font with nice tips, and this character is no exception. At this size it looks like it has an oriental brush stroke style.

6. La Peruta FLF


Oh! I’m glad someone managed to prop up that eight before it fell over… wait let’s make that into an ampersand. LaPerutaFLF8, with a name like that, you have to be cheeky.

7. Skia


Another more classical approach from Skia9. The nice variation here is how the two halves intersect in that off-set way.

8. Tuffy


And. There’s no confusion here. It knows what it’s there to do and does it. Somehow, though, in this font it looks great. Nice one, Tuffy10.

9. Lacuna


I’ve decided to finish off with two italicized ampersands. This one is from Lacuna11 and looks like some kind of crazy ‘e’. Somehow, with that cross bar and the horizontal plate at the end, it still ends up feeling like an ampersand.

10. Fontin


And last, but certainly not least, here is the italicized ampersand from Fontin12. It has a cheeky bulbous bottom and that classic plate finish.

So there we have it. 10 interesting takes on the ampersand. I hope you’ve been educated, I hope you have fallen in love with typography a little more, and I hope that next time you are creating a typeface you will be inspired to make an ampersand with attitude.

About the author

Huw Wilkins is the lead creative for a digital agency. He has a passion for user experience, usability, interfaces and good design. He also has a background in development. His little corner of the web is at huwshimi.com13.


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  1. 1

    Interesting article
    I´ve used another (in my humble opinion) quite interesting ampersand in my logo:
    The font is “Art Gothic Extra Bold”

  2. 52

    I really like the Garamond typeface. I even used a large one on my business card/bookmarks because of its clean serifs.

  3. 103

    Between the faux pas that is “it looks like a crazy ‘e'” and the fact that this is just another boring top-X-things article, I am completely disappointed. I gather that this is a guest article, but it speaks volumes of the lack of editorial rigidity on this site. An article that displays such blatant ignorance regarding the very character it’s supposed to be written on should not see the light of day.

    Smashing Magazine: “We smash you with any information that comes our way, regardless of how retardedly inaccurate it may be.” Perhaps you could go with a shorter —and way sweeter— tagline, from now on. Smashing Magazine: “We haven’t a clue.”

  4. 154

    Your graphic is too wide for 1024×768 screens. It reads: Ampersands With Attitud. It looks like a z-index/float issue, with the sidebar covering the image.

    Just an FYI. You don’t want your 1024 readers to develop a negative attitud, do you?


  5. 205

    Nice article!

  6. 256

    Too bad you didn’t use my favourite ampersand, the one that looks like a backwards 3 with a line through it, like the dollar sign. You can see what I mean in the 8th and 9th row in this picture:

  7. 307
  8. 358

    A fun, light-hearted article. Some type designers really let loose when it comes to ampersand. That’s good, they tend to be rather straight-laced types otherwise.

    The master typographer Jan Tschichold wrote a book on the history of the ampersand:


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