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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Fonts in the news.

Sometimes I have to work really hard to find something for this much-neglected Philocrites feature. The Boston Globe reported recently, however, that designers were musing about the extinction of the ampersand — "creative doodle amongst measured letterforms."(You may wonder: Is this really a font in the news? It's not like I've established much of a precedent, of course, but since every reputable font has an ampersand, this story has implications for every font there is. And then there's the fact that this is really a news story about a blog post.)

The biggest threat to the ampersand in my view is the atrocious new AT&T ad campaign. This ad (pdf; 126k) isn't just disturbingly ugly. (Argh! the colors! the halved faces!) It also took me much longer to interpret than it should. After all, why would a phone company want to splice our heads together? That's not my model of communication.

("The evolution of the ampersand," Joshua Glenn, Boston Globe 3.28.04)

Update 6.7.04: Slate piles on AT&T for its awful ad campaign. It's a really important part of the company's name, that ampersand: "Thank goodness they've reminded us it's American Telephone AND Telegraph. Mustn't forget the highly profitable telegraph division." But Seth Stevenson also adds value to our "Fonts in the News" focus:

First the "at" sign's career was reinvented by e-mail. Now the ampersand gets a national ad campaign. Even the asterisk has *69. These are heady, heady days for punctuation. (Of course, the stickler will note that these are not in fact punctuation marks, but rather typographical symbols, or "glyphs." Nerd.)

Who will be next? Octothorp (#)? Tilde (~)? Or, dare I hope, the interrobang?!

("Castles made of ampersands," Seth Stevenson, Slate 6.7.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 8 April 2004 at 5:55 PM

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