The Ampersand Story

Ampersand conference masthead

There’s so much to learn about the full story of typography on the web, from designing typefaces specifically for the screen medium, through engineering those fonts to make them render acceptably across the various platforms of our ‘crude media’ as David Berlow puts it, to writing the browser software to make it happen, the CSS specs which provide designers with a framework for defining their work, to the actual typesetting and layout requirements that are so specific to the web.

There’s so many interwoven, and sometimes adversarial, disciplines involved that I felt the everyone’s tale needed to be told. I wanted to try and tell the whole story in one day, from experts and practitioners of the different disciplines. I felt that if I, as primarily a website designer, knew more about the type design decisions, the hinting process, the issues browser makers have, then I could become a better designer. No conference existed with all of this in one place, Ampersand was born as the UK’s first web typography conference.


The history of Clearleft conferences – primarily UX London and dConstruct of course – is of putting together events that we at Clearleft would want to attend. And Ampersand is definitely no exception.

I’m hugely, genuinely, excited about the line-up we managed to put together. As well as knowledgeable experts, we’ve got really good, entertaining speakers too (the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand).

And what better way to kick off than with Vincent Connare’s Comic Sans story, one of the most successful fonts of all time, and technically brilliant in terms of screen rendering. We’ll have Fontdeck Jon Tan taking a web designer’s perspective, with Jonathan Hoefler and David Berlow’s very different accounts of redesigning fonts for the web. Typekit’s Tim Brown will be building upon his approach to typesetting on the web which went down so well at Build last year, and I’m really looking forward to hearing John Daggett views on being a browser developer and a standards writer. I’m also really, really pleased that I managed to persuade Mark Porter to wrap up the conference with his experience at the Guardian and his remarkable view on the future of typography on the web.


I knew with Clearleft’s years of experience that we’d be able to pull it off smoothly, and I hoped that there would be enough people out there who would be interested in such a conference. I was pretty much right. We sold a third of the tickets on the first day, and we’ll be sold out by the time conference day comes along (so register now!).

Ampersand is obviously a great opportunity for us tell a perfect audience about Fontdeck – in fact Fontdeck will be giving $20 of web fonts to every attendee – but I should also say I’m pleased to have the support of our friends at Webtype and Hoefler & Frere-Jones along with Typekit and MyFonts, both of whom are giving free beer and an opportunity for fellow type nerds to geek out at pre- and post-event parties. We’ve also got Phil Baines along to reprise his famous Brighton type walk on the morning after the conference.

As well as this major sponsorship, we’ve also introduced a really low-cost grassroots sponsorship scheme for small companies wanting to get their name out there in front of a savvy audience. This was new for us, and we’re pleased to be helping to promote small type foundries, web designers and other exciting type-related endeavours.

So all in all, I’m proud of what we’ve put together and I can’t wait for June 17th to come along. If that piques your interest, you can follow updates at @ampersandconf and register here, including half price tickets for students. Hope to see you there!