Graphic Design at Nerd Nite

Ampersands on stage

I was the first graphic designer to speak at Nerd Nite, a monthly evening of short talks for charity at the Backyard Comedy Club, Bethnal Green.

My first talk for Nerd Nite was about ampersands. My client David Bowen had suggested it on the basis that my visual identity for Bowen Craggs & Co featured one so I must know all about them. Apart from a designerly capacity to pore over ampersands for hours, I turned out to know one thing. Which turned out to be wrong. Weeks of unnecessarily-detailed research later, I had two historical roots, a classroom nickname, a Gaelic parking sign and a 360-degree view from the top of Ampersand Mountain.

For the second, I went on a voyage of typographic nerdery to find out about apostrophes: where they come from; what they are; as interestingly, what they aren’t and what greengrocers think about the whole thing. My talk hurtled through history via a carpenter’s pencil, the London Underground, a mid-1800s rant, a 1960s typewriter, market sundries, Birmingham and a can of tomatoes.

And I picked the brains of some lovely people along the way, including letter cutter Dave Farey, Sarah Hyndman from Type Tasting and the wonderful St Bride Printing Library.

For more on my apostrophe talk, head over to the studio book I produced about it.

My third Nerd Nite talk, Where’s Ethel, has been about lost letters from the English alphabet. More on that on the blog.