Family & Friends & Ampersands…our greatest holiday gifts

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Family & Friends includes my cats!

#75 Family & Friends
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First, to my own family & friends:

I love you, I appreciate you, I respect you,
I enjoy you, I thank you.
But most of all, I love you.

About this edition

I got the idea for AmperArt #75, Family & Friends, featuring our friend the fun & fabulous ampersand, about a month ago, after a friend & a family member came to my rescue. More on that later. (Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Roz.) 

Family & Friends is a very special AmperArt title to me & hopefully to you. I went through several iterations to bring you a meaningful, elegant piece that you might want to send to others with your own sentiments, or frame for your family room (or Family & Friends Room) wall. It was issued for Thanksgiving 2014, but let’s face it, Family & Friends are timeless.

First, you’ll meet my own family & friends (including my pets, of course). I am blessed with a loving family &  friends that are the very best. That includes you, too, my awesome readers & subscribers—you’re my AmperArt family!

Then, you’ll see how the Family & Friends edition was created. In response to several requests from subscribers who want to see how I create AmperArt, or how I even choose a topic, I’ve explained the process in the next section. (This particular Family & Friends piece posed several challenges even though the design is quite simple. It’s a perfect example of why each AmperArt piece can take 20 hours or more.)

My own family & friends

I am blessed with a wonderful family:

Mom & Dad (both gone but always in my heart)—both of my parents are the definition of integrity.

My sister Roslyn & my brothers Andy & Robyou are the epitome of love, friendship, honesty and generosity. You’ve always been there when your eccentric black sheep of a brother needed a helping hand or a hand-out. Thank you.

Mary Ann, you helped me get my very first van so I could start my business. You took care of us kids when Mom nearly died. And today you comment on every one of my AmperArt pieces. You’re very special to me…cuz you’re my favorite cuz.

My friends are so plentiful there probably aren’t enough gigabytes on the server to list them all, so I’ll mention the oldest and dearest, in the order they came into my life: Gary R, Gary S, Joe R (we’re talking elementary and junior high on those three), Lande WGregg & Jill, Mardy D, Deborah T, Lisa S (& later Sean), Jim B (if it weren’t for him I’d still be designing with a T-square), Mark H (& later Crystal), Pat B, Tara K, Marty K, Sandy J, Denis W, Jeanette F. Those who have departed, whom I miss dearly: Gilbert (the one & only!), Joe F, Preston H.

My furry family: Tiger, Bulldog, Donald (yes, a duck), Woofer (my very best friend for sixteen years), Briquette, Amos & Andy…and my current awesome creatures, Jeepers & Bebe.

I feel like I’m at the podium for the Oscars! Well, you see, that’s what my family & friends do for me.

Now back to what inspired this piece: Last month I had a serious circumstance, and between my best friend Joe Rinaudo and my best sister Roslyn (she’d be my best sister, I’m sure, if I had a dozen but she too is the one & only) they did something for me as a complete surprise, saving me from being homeless for the second time in my life. Immediately I thought of combining “Family & Friends” into one piece of art—to me they are often one and the same. My brothers & many friends & even a few clients have also helped me in need—tremendously. If I didn’t have to get this sent out right now I’d tell you about those Family & Friends experiences, too. Instead, I’ll come up with some new ideas to illustrate those episodes in future editions.

How this project began…and wouldn’t end

This Family & Friends piece encountered so many obstacles and morphed through so many changes I figured it’s the perfect example to explain how I create my AmperArt pieces.

This AmperArt had to be special. After all, we’re talking about our Friends & Family here. Or is it Family & Friends?

Right off, problem #1: Family & Friends, or…

The first mind-boggling task in creating this piece was whether to call it “Friends & Family” which flows off the tongue and and has a nice ring (in fact, the original title was “Friends & Family” just because it’s so familiar and came to me first); or “Family & Friends” which puts family first, where I believe it belongs.

I went to the current source for all answers to the universe: Google. I simply typed in  both terms to see which had more entries. It was astounding: “Friends & Family” came in at 2,110,000,000 results (in .47 seconds). But wait—”Family & Friends” returned 2,110,000,000 results (0.33 seconds). The same number, just slightly faster. Either way, over 2 trillion items about our families & friends & friends & families is impressive. But…I was still in a quandry.

I tried reasoning it out:

Friends can include family members, but some family members just aren’t your friends!* So it’s “Friends & Family.”


Some friends are so special they’re considered family. So it’s “Family & Friends.”

These little things can hang me up, so the working title was simply F & F. I began working on the design, figuring I’d figure it out before the last pixel was in place. F it!

As I was creating the artwork, an idea hit me (sometimes that hurts): try to find some quotes about family & friends. There were quite a few, not surprisingly, but one stood out:

Love overflows and joy never ends
In a home that is blessed with family and friends

It captured the essence of these special people, family who are friends & friends who are family. What the poem says is so true, I adapted it for my piece of art. And in the process realized that the title absolutely, positively had to be “Family & Friends” because that’s how the poem is written. Otherwise it wouldn’t rhyme. Problem #1 solved!

Family & Friends…I like that. As stated above, I believe family does come first. And I do consider my very best friends family. (That goes for my cats too, past and present.)

I set some type, giving it a solid, reverent feel. Changed a few things around to suit my taste:

1. First, we gotta replace “and” with an ampersand. Done.

2. I prefer the “…nds” ending the first and second lines, even though the cadence is thrown off.

3. Most important to me was changing “home” or “house” to something greater—life itself. Besides, when I was homeless my family & friends were still around, more valued than ever.

4. Finally, there’s nothing wrong with the word “blessed” but I changed it to “rich” to relate to the golden text, “Family & Friends.” I even changed it later to “in a life that is linked by” to relate to the final treatment at the bottom—coming up next—and even had all the files finalized and formatted, uploaded, etc., which takes a couple hours itself. But it was just too weird of a word. So I reverted to “rich” and finalized, formatted and uploaded Family & Friends all over again. (That’s what Walt would have done. Wish I could say he was a friend I personally met, but he was my “surrogate father” every Sunday night after my dad passed away when I was ten.)

Next I added a relevant (so I thought) piece of art. Here’s the original design (keep your comments to yourself, no matter if you’re my very best friend):

Family & Friends early version

So…did I invite my family & friends to a rally? Or a concert? Or a Superman sighting?
This is supposed to represent a bunch of family & friends just hanging out,
enjoying each other’s company. But it doesn’t. Not at all.

Then problem #2: what are these Family & Friends doing?

I pulled out every trick in the artist’s beret to turn these silhouette clip art images into something that didn’t scream “cheesy company newsletter.”

This AmperArt piece, honoring and celebrating the most special people in my life—Family & Friends—just wasn’t there yet. With only hours till deadline (it’s now three seven nine hours a full day past) I still had reservations about sending it out like this.

One more search for a better group of people…and…

I found it! Paper people!

Think back…what represented the most special people in your life when you were a kid? The chain people you cut out of paper! Right? (Well, it was for me, since I coudn’t draw anything but stick figures—and still can’t.) The idea didn’t just come to me; an image popped up on one of my stock art searches. Then I did a search for “paper cutout people” thinking there might be one or two. There were over one million results! (In .40 seconds.) The official term for these things seems to be “paper people chain” or “paper chain dolls”—I’ll stick to the former, as few of my friends would be considered dolls. (Sis, you’re a doll.)

I found an entire page of paper people chains on Pinterest, and there are hundreds more images on clip art sites. (I know, as a professional designer I shouldn’t even mention that medium, but sometimes it proves to be a goldmine. With judicious conceptual strategy, a silly piece of clip art can be transformed into a respectable element of design.)

Several photos and drawings of paper people chains came close to what I wanted, but none exactly. So I decided to create my own chain from scratch (on the computer; it could take forever to find a pair of scissors around here). The places that were most helpful in refreshing my memory of what a typical paper chain looked like (hey, it’s been over 50 years since I made one) were Pinterest (here and here) and this step-by-step guide. The image that served as my model is this one by “gustavorezende.” It’s simple and basic, perfect for a kid and for a grown-up graphic designer. Creating the initial unisex figure was quite fun, just a circle and a few lines which I “roughed up” as if cut by scissors. After creating a mirror image of that one, I duplicated and joined several of them together. I gave each individual droid a vertical skew and shaded every other one to give the effect of being unfolded. In placing on the page, I made sure the arms extended off each edge so the chain would appear to continue, suggesting more than just a dozen friends & family members. I feel sorry for those people, and I know they’re out there, who really can’t count even twelve individuals as combined friends, family & relatives. I wish for them a visit from someone who cares, this holiday season. Or even a Christmas card. 

Finally, problem #3: My Family & Friends aren’t quaint!

I love my little paper chain people! But I no longer like the type I set for the poem. It’s too formal and quaint for these robust little guys and gals. So I played around and came up with the perfect font, Ad Lib. It was very popular in the 1960s and really captured the modern, carefree spirit of the era. (Baby boomers saw it on Batman, The Bad News Bears, The Dating Game, Night Gallery & In the Heat of the Night. Recently Ad Lib was used on Animatics merchandise. I use it, modified, for my Chaz Sez articles.)

I don’t usually combine such a loose, funky typestyle with a classic such as Goudy (the main text in gold) but sometimes opposites render a perfect match. Like beer & ice cream, honey & mustard, or today’s fad, salt & caramel.

Ad Lib is fun & friendly & quirky (like many of our friends) so it’s the perfect style to express the joy we get out of the various people in our lives. Together, all those characteristics & personalities & ages & ethnicities add up to what is represented by our formal, yet still friendly, Goudy Old Style font: a treasure of family & friends that is PURE GOLD.

So what made me decide to set the top line in Ad Lib? It looks like the paper people cutouts on the bottom line.

By the way, I could have dropped a shadow behind “Family & Friends” but chose to give it a golden glow instead. I did try a shadow behind the cut-out letters and figures—that made sense—but it was just too much. At least I tried.

A nice surprise was that the color and texture I had already rendered as the background, as well as the color for the cut-out lettering and images, just happened to already look like kraft paper (I remember cutting the chains out of grocery bags) so I just left it alone. The background wasn’t planned to resemble kraft (it was completed before I got the idea for the paper people) but it was perfect. Project finished.

*About the asterisk after “…some family members just aren’t your friends!” —Mine are, always have been (except when we fought as kids, of course).

Dear Subscriber, thank you for being part of my AmperArt family.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

May You & Your Family & Friends
enjoy each other’s company with abounding, never-ending
Love & Joy
this Thanksgiving & throughout the Holiday Season

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Production notes for Family & Friends:
Original size: 20×30 inches
Program: Illustrator (abberrations removed in Photoshop)
Fonts: Goudy Oldstyle, Ad Lib
Ampersand: Goudy Old Style
Images for Family & Friends:
Paper People Chain: I credit these exceptional renderings to my inability to draw anything beyond a stick figure.
Paper texture background:
Enjoy & share...

Chaz DeSimone

Design. Dancing. Disneyland. Modernism. Nudism. Black Cats or any other color.

5 thoughts on “Family & Friends & Ampersands…our greatest holiday gifts

    1. Oops…I forgot you’re a newlywed. I should have listed you as Jeanette Y.
      (Why? Because you’re special!)
      What an incredibly appropriate last name for you! Especially preceded by your middle name. You must always write it out in full!

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