The Ampersand (&) as a Graphic Element

Ampersand by Samuel Welo - 1927

Decorative ampersand by Samuel Welo - 1927

Although the ampersand has been around since the First Century AD, it really wasn’t used as an independent graphic element until creative signwriters began working it into their designs in the early part of the 20th Century.  They were no doubt influenced by the Art Nouveau  and later Art Deco movements of the time.

Vintage 'and' from an 1890's typography catalog

Vintage 'and' from an 1890's typography catalog

The typography of that era, for the most part, gave no special treatment to the ampersand, however you could often find the complete word and done rather ornately in printed brochures.  Many hand-lettered signs from around the turn of the century would also make use an ornate and.

Ampersand examples: between, beside and behind

Ampersand examples: between, beside and behind

An ampersand, when used as an independent graphic element in a sign layout, can be a totally different size, color or weight that the surrounding copy.  The ampersand can be placed between, on top,
underneath or alongside the relative copy as long as it reads correctly.  Try different combinations to see what looks best.

Be sure and check out the ampersand category in our symbols and graphics section.  Many are vintage and unique from old hand-lettered sources. If you’ve found a decorative ampersand you’d like to see added, please let us know.

By the way, although you see it done regularly,  it’s not considered good writing practice to use the ampersand in place of and in normal text.

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