Nancy Upper

I am hon­ored to intro­duce you to a long-​time Amper­Art sub­scriber who knows even more about amper­sands than I do. Nan­cy Upper is an amper­sand his­to­ri­an, although she calls her­self an “amper­san­dol­o­gist.” Her research is thor­ough & her knowl­edge is vast & her sto­ries about the amper­sand are fascinating. 

Nan­cy wrote me a com­pre­hen­sive let­ter about all things amper­sand, and was I ever intrigued. We con­nect­ed by email, then even­tu­al­ly “met” on a 2‑hour phone call. Nan­cy is a delight to lis­ten to, with her upbeat per­son­al­i­ty, wide spec­trum of knowl­ege (not just about amper­sands), and fun, inno­v­a­tive ideas. One of those ideas is a book she’s writ­ing about all things “amper­san­dia” as she says, and I’ll let you know when it’s out. Anoth­er idea is for our col­lab­o­ra­tion on ampersand-​related projects, and that will fun & excit­ing & explod­ing with syn­er­gy, I’m sure of it. 

Nan­cy is even respon­si­ble for sub­mit­ting the beau­ti­ful Sophia font amper­sand to rep­re­sent the let­ter R in the amper­gram SEPTEMBER 8, which is World Amper­sand Day. —Chaz DeSimone

SEPTEMBER 8 spelled with ampersands


Uppersand™ Means Ampersands 

A glimpse can change your life. 

As a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, Nan­cy Upper saw a sec­re­tary make an amper­sand like this: 

Always striv­ing to be dis­tinc­tive, the char­ac­ter showed Upper a way to stand out. She made amper­sands like this ever after. 

Two decades lat­er, Upper’s let­ter to the region­al man­ag­er won her a job in the New Eng­land office of Adobe Inc. The graph­ic design in Adobe Illus­tra­tor man­u­als and the amper­sands on Adobe Type prod­ucts spoke to her cre­ative pas­sions. When the com­pa­ny dis­con­tin­ued the job, Upper returned to her first love, bal­let (she had stud­ied since child­hood and danced pro­fes­sion­al­ly for nine years), but the amper­sands stayed vivid in memory. 

The next decades took Upper from vol­un­teer­ing and writ­ing pro­gram notes for Boston Bal­let, to writ­ing Bal­let Dancers in Career Tran­si­tion: Six­teen Suc­cess Sto­ries (McFar­land, 2004), to writ­ing pub­lic rela­tions mate­r­i­al for MIT. After leav­ing MIT, she assist­ed with PEN New Eng­land events, orga­nized the Phi Beta Kap­pa Boston lec­ture series, did free­lance writ­ing, and helped to start the Boston Athenæum Ambas­sador program. 

In 2010, Upper devised, for col­or­ful wall art, a series of 8.5 x 8.5‑inch pan­els each fea­tur­ing an amper­sand. Upper called her pan­els Uppersands™. 

To find the punchi­est amper­sands for her Upper­sands™, Upper stud­ied type­faces and spoke with type design­ers. The more she researched, the more her fas­ci­na­tion with the sym­bol grew. 

Sud­den­ly life came togeth­er. In the ampersand’s pos­ture, vital­i­ty, allure, cre­ativ­i­ty, and mean­ing were the dance, ener­gy, spir­it, inge­nu­ity, and har­mo­ny that had shaped her life. She resolved to write a book about the glyph to show the world the ampersand’s power. 

In 2012, Upper turned her pan­els project into an expand­ed Upper­sand™ busi­ness that will lunch in full when her book is pub­lished. Over the years, she has amassed an enor­mous library of amper­sand ref­er­ences, and has devel­oped prod­ucts, events, and pre­sen­ta­tions around amper­sands in all their forms. 

When pub­lished, Upper’s amper­sand book (title to be decid­ed) will be the: 

  • First book to tell the full sto­ry of the ampersand’s his­to­ry and devel­op­ment, from its antecedents to its dig­i­tal progeny. 
  • First book to show world­wide uses of the amper­sand sym­bol, word, and meanings. 
  • First book to reveal the symbol’s psy­chol­o­gy — how amper­sands ful­fill our needs for con­nec­tion, belong­ing, iden­ti­ty, atten­tion, struc­ture, vari­ety, and creativity. 
  • First book to unite and inter­pret in one vol­ume amper­sand knowl­edge, designs, news, lore, and voic­es from around the world. 

Before Upper’s book hits the mar­ket, vis­it nan​cyup​per​.com right now for glimpses of the book’s con­tents and week­ly amper­sand news and thrills. 

Nan­cy Upper 
Founder & Cre­ative Direc­tor 
Lex­ing­ton, MA