Ampersands, &c.

Ampersands

The ampersand has been with us perhaps since the first century CE in one form or another. It’s a conjoining of the e and t, forming the Latin et, which means “and.” You can still make out both letters in even the most abstract designs since typographers know that the ampersand is a ligature and design it as such. Because ampersands are so highly stylized, they can add verve to even the stodgiest of typefaces.

Victorian alphabet

Pre-Victorian alphabets included the ampersand as the 27th letter.

Designers, take note: as Robert Bringhurst has written, the italic versions of ampersands are less restrained than their roman counterparts. “Since the ampersand is more often used in display work than in ordinary text…there is rarely any reason not to borrow the italic ampersand for use with roman text.” An italic ampersand can bring verve, and a completed appearance, to even the stodgiest logo—like a colorful necktie.

Etymology: Pre-Victorian grammar schools included the ampersand as the last letter of the alphabet. Children ended recitations of the alphabet with “x, y, z and, per se, and” which through rote repetition became the garbled “ampersand.”

The ampersand is still used as a letter in “&c,” a widely-accepted abbreviation of et cetera.

 

 

Beware: “web hosting” billing scams

It looks like an annual web hosting bill"Web Host Agents" phony web hosting bill

A company called Web Host Agents sends businesses what appears to be an invoice for “yearly web hosting.” At a glance, it does look like an invoice, but buried within the text is “This is a solicitation…not a bill.” One can easily imagine a busy accounts payable office simply sending a check to clear the in-box.

“Hosting your website with us will ensure your website remains active, that you retain exclusive rights to it on the web, and now is the time to transfer your web hosting from your current provider to Web Host Agents.” This may sound legit if you haven’t had your coffee yet. Assuming that they do, in fact, provide hosting, you would need to migrate your site and redirect your domain to Web Host Agents servers.

Beware of domain name billing scams as well

Our local hosting service, Morse Media posted a warning about a similar billing scam from a company called Internet Domain Name Services in which the headline on the invoice-looking letter warns “Domain Name Expiration Notice.” The scammers know that few business owners can remember which company they leased their domain from, and nobody wants to lose their domain name—the notice looks urgent. They charge $45 per year (“best value: 5 years for $180”), and you’d have to transfer your domain from your current registrar to whom you are likely paying about $10 annually.

Caveat emptor is always good advice, but in this case, the buyer believes that the goods have already been purchased, and they are simply renewing.

Changeable wall-mounted directories

changeable directories and directionals

We now offer inexpensive directories and directionals that can be changed/updated with laser prints.

  • Durable extruded aluminum frames.
  • Easy-installation with screws or high-bond two-stick tape.
  • Custom sizes and configurations (multiple or single column).
  • Graphics can be created on any laser printer to easily update.
  • No more waiting for expensive engraved panels.
  • Graphics protected under clear polycarbonate insert.
  • Fast and easy: remove the clear protective cover and put in the new laser print.

American Type Founders Specimen Book…

1923 American Type Founders specimen book

American Type Founders was born of a merger of 23 type foundries in 1892. In the early 1920s, American Type Founders had come to dominate the huge metal foundry type market in the United States. They budgeted a whopping $300,000 (millions in today’s dollars) to produce 60,00 copies of their 1923 Specimen Book.

American Type Founders 1923 specimen bookThis immense, 1100-page catalog was distributed to print shops across North America. Most surviving copies were referenced for decades by printers with inky fingers, so clean copies are hard to find, and we’ve never seen one in mint-condition. Many copies have illustrations and decorations cut out of the book (probably to be used in a paste-up for an offset project).

ATF finally succumbed, in 1993, to the pressures of “cold type” and offset printing. Luckily for letterpress shops, which have had a resurgence in popularity in the digital age, Mackenzie & Harris Type Foundry, in San Francisco, still produces metal type. There’s also eBay, for metal foundry type.

The Specimen Book and Catalogue 1923 is available occasionally from used book sellers, but you can view the entire catalog on pdf here.

 

Georgia: old style text figures

Georgia old style figures blend into textOld style figures blend invisibly into text.

Old style text figures (or lower case, non-lining numerals) have become popular in graphic design in recent years. Typesetters use old style figures mainly in book publishing and magazines because they are lower case and blend into text, but graphic designers have been largely ignorant of old style figures owing in part to the lack of affordable extended type families in the early years of desktop publishing. For decades now, most numerals in text have been “lining” or “modern” figures—essentially all caps.

Matthew Carter designed Georgia in 1996 for Microsoft’s Web Core Fonts program, and it’s now everywhere online. Why?—because it was included (wisely) in the system software for both Macs and PCs. Web designers preferred system fonts for live type (type which is still editable or can be selected/copied—not a static graphic) so that default fonts (think Times and Arial) would not be substituted for display.

Georgia, a lovely, highly readable typeface has handsome old style figures, and since Georgia is now ubiquitous, it has renewed interest in non-lining text numerals. Thank you Matthew Carter, and (dare we say) thank you Microsoft.

 

Google AdWords versus Facebook advertising

Google AdWords versus Facebook ads infographic

A thumbnail understanding of Google AdWords and Facebook ads and promoted posts:

Google Adwords: comparable to the yellow pages or classified ads

Google Adwords is search-based. Users are looking for your service or product and AdWords puts you in their search results. The more you are willing to pay per click, the higher you’ll appear in the results. Adwords offers keyword targeting, and allows you to target by location. It also offers negative keywords for excluding clicks that you do not want.

Facebook: comparable to television and radio ads

Facebook ads and promoted posts are like mass media—newspapers, television and radio. Use Facebook for upcoming events, to make your brand known, or to promote a candidate or ballot measure. Facebook allows you to target users based on location and demographics, but you are competing for attention in users’ newsfeed.

Italic ampersands liven up logos

italic ampersands add verve to an otherwise dull logo
Bulmer MT Regular with a Goudy Oldstyle Italic ampersand

The italic versions of ampersands are typically less restrained than their roman counterparts. As Robert Bringhurst wrote, “Since the ampersand is more often used in display work than in ordinary text…there is rarely any reason not to borrow the italic ampersand for use with roman text.” This is yet more true for display work and logos.

If a given typeface has a dull italic ampersand (some do), find an exciting alternative in another face (Caslon and Goudy Oldstyle are beauties). Make sure that the thicks, thins and overall weight are compatible with the rest of the type, but a Roman italic can be used stunningly even with a sans serif face.

Cincinnati Type Foundry sale flyer

Cincinnati Type Foundry sale flyer

We recently purchased this 11″ x 17″ sale flyer. Typographic ephemera typically consists of beautiful broadsides from foundries, advertising a new typeface on high-quality paper, but this is a notice of a sale of “secondhand job type” printed on low-quality paper. It was likely distributed to print shops in the region served by the Cincinnati Type Foundry. These faces would have been used in “job printing,” business cards, stationery, etc.

Cincinnati Type Foundry used job type sale flyer.There‘s a mention of the “War of 1861,” so we know that it was printed after what became better known as the Civil War. In 1892 Cincinnati Type Foundry was merged into American Type Founders. View a larger scan of the entire flyer.

The colorful etymology of the ‘giclée’ print

Giclée inkjet art printer

Q: What’s the difference between a giclée and an inkjet?
A: A couple hundred bucks.

In the world of limited edition art prints, giclée is a fancy word for inkjet art prints. There is a difference in quality between the office inkjet copier and a giclée printer, but the term ‘inkjet’ might sound a bit too pedestrian in an art gallery. According to Merriam-Webster, a digital print maker in California coined the term in 1991 after consulting a French dictionary in search of a suitably upscale euphemism. He found the word ‘gicler,’ which means ‘to spray’ or ‘to jet.’

Giclée printer cartridges

Giclée would have a cachet that ‘digital ink jet print’ couldn’t achieve. Later, printers discovered that in French ‘gicler’ was slang for ‘to ejaculate,’ but the term had by then been widely embraced by North American galleries. Giclée is still in use, but the unsexy straightforward ‘digital ink jet print’ has regained currency and is now the preferred usage.