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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

The Understated Ampersand

Barkess, Donna (2018) The Understated Ampersand. In: The Understated Ampersand, 3 Apr 2018, The Water Rats, London. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)


Donna Barkess very kindly came down from her Northumbrian castle to explain to us how the ampersand – 27th letter in our alphabet – has taken over her life, and why the ampersand is so much part of our lives; arguably the most expressive and versatile of characters, evolved from the Latin et, meaning ‘and’. It is steeped in history.

Donna has explored the ‘&’ and its history over two millennia; how 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.

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 recently curated a successful exhibition to celebrate the beauty and versatility of the Ampersand and garnered much fascinating information about this outwardly innocuous and ubiquitous character. The exhibition explored the history and evolution of the ampersand, exploring how well it has stood the test of time. As well as taking the viewer through the intriguing life and times of the ampersand, the exhibition 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 is a graphic designer, illustrator, typographer and lecturer. She currently works at the University of Sunderland 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. Currently researching ‘creative protest culture’ that considers the benefits and implications of creative protest in both theory and practice; aiming to demonstrate that creative and unconventional approaches to protest can be more effective than ‘traditional’ methods, thus examining the role of designers and creatives within a political context.

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 9551
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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 18 May 2018 08:26
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:06


Author: Donna Barkess

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design


Fine Art

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