Last week I talked about the importance of diacritics, and why I’m designing them for my font—my first font, no less. Because they are important to me, I’m going to take the time to research them well before diving in.

That said, I’m going to work on some other glyphs while I wrap my head around good diacritic design. Here’s the plan:

  • Letterlike Symbols
    1. &
    2. @ © ® ™
    3. ª º ¹ ² ³ №
    4. $ ¢ £ € ¥ %
  • Punctuation
    1. § ¶ † ‡
    2. * # – – — _
    3. . , ; : ! ¡ ? ¿ ‽ … •
    4. ' ‘ ’ ‚ “ ” „ ′ ″ ‹ › « »
    5. / \ | ¦ ( ) [ ] { }
  • Mathematic symbols (to be determined)
  • Diacritics

The Mighty Ampersand

“Ampersand” comes from a pervious version of the alphabet song. At the end of the song, after Z, was the 27th letter of the alphabet, “And.” The song went, “…Z, and per se and” meaning “…Z, and And itself.” The phrase “and per se and” got slurred and mumbled together into “ampersand.”

The & symbol comes from a ligature of the Latin “et” meaning “and.” There are plenty of ways to scribble together “et,” and so there are plenty of varieties of ampersand forms. The wide variety of interpretations of the ampersand form are what make it so popular among type designers and type enthusiasts alike.

The Tyrrany of Choice

Everyone has their favorite ampersand form. So whether out of a sense of play, or an inability to choose, or perhaps worry that the market demands a choice, type designers sometimes include a number of ampersand alternates. I’m choosing to do that for Protest. If this is a font for the people, then they shall have a choice. Plus I just enjoy drawing ampersands.

Form & Function

There are four primary ampersand forms (I’m making up my own classifications now): calligraphic et, round E with a t, backwards 3 currency, and classic pretzel. I’ve decided to draw all four forms because it’s fun.

The calligraphic “et” ligature
This version looks very much like a lowercase e with some sort of cross stroke appended to a flourish to make a t. This is a typically italic form. (Janson Text Italic has a beautiful example.)

This form is difficult to do with a chunky Sharpie® marker. It really doesn’t go with the Protest typeface I’m designing, so I may not include it. (And if I do, I will bury it deep for only the truly committed to find.)

The round uppercase E (backwards 3) with a t
This is the uppercase variant of the form above. This is also a typically italic form. (Baskerville Italic is a popular one.)

This form, like the others that will follow this description, requires a good balance of the upper and lower counters. The upper counter should be slightly smaller than the lower.

The backwards 3 that wants to be a currency symbol
This is the one most of us write when scribbling a note. (Chalkduster is a font probably on your system that has this style.)

The classic “backward S” or “pretzel” form
This one is recognizable as an et ligature only if you squint real hard and apply liberal use of your imagination. It’s also the most popular form. (It’s in Times New Roman, Helvetica… Comic Sans.)

This is a hard one to draw. It also has a number of possible variations on its basic skeletal structure. Thankfully, the limitations of the tool I’m using narrow down my choices.

Up Next

Next week I’ll be doing commercial symbols: @ © ® ™.
(Yes, @ began as the “commercial at.” More on that in the next post!)