Designer opens world into the ampersand

The ampersand is the most expressive and versatile of characters, evolved from the Latin it, meaning ‘and’ according to a North East academic.

Donna Barkess, a graphic designer, University of Sunderland senior lecturer and typographer is going to celebrate and explore the ‘&’ and its history which spans almost 2,000 years during a talk to the prestigious Galley Club in Kings Cross, London.

The symbol has been pushed and pulled around artistically by typographers, calligraphers, designers and artists and is everywhere, from company logos to our computer or phone keyboards. It is also an important character in computer coding.

Donna explains: “The ampersand is one of the oldest alphabetic abbreviations. By its very nature, history and definition, it is inviting and inclusive. Its versatility is astonishing. Whatever the designing of a new font inflicts upon it, the ampersand holds its own. Still recognisable after flourishes are added, or elements of its anatomy pruned back. Looking at the ampersand within any font reveals so much about the character of the typeface.”

Donna curated a successful exhibition to celebrate the beauty and versatility of the Ampersand at the University in recent years which took the viewer through the intriguing life and times of the ampersand. Donna created an exhibition that featured the work of many local and international artists and designers, who submitted pieces of artwork to celebrate the beauty and versatility of the ampersand.

Donna currently works at the University part-time and spends the rest of the week working as Creative Director within a design consultancy. Her links to industry are strong, so she is able to draw upon her professional practice and use this a teaching tool. Predominantly lecturing in graphic design, Donna has taught across other programmes, such as advertising and illustration. Her main area of research during the past decade has been linked to sustainable design practice and the role of the contemporary designer.

The Understated Ampersand takes place on Tuesday, April 3, 6:30pm at the Galley Club, The Water Rats (link is external), Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross. Further details about this event can be found on the Gallery Club web site.

[Text and image sourced with permission on Donna Barkess from the University news pages]

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