Tomi from Suomi's picture

I truly and vehemently hate the generic @ glyph. In too many fonts it seems to have been copied from an older font, and pasted into new one.

The first different @ I saw was in DIN, and realised that @ does not have to look like that.

So, I would like you to show different variants of this generic form.

Here are some of mine:

phrostbyte64's picture


from the Fontry...

microspective's picture

It's interesting how Thai some of the glyphs from the first post appear.

TypeSETit's picture

What an interesting topic. I admit, in years past I've been guilty as charged with regard to using @'s from previous fonts I've designed. Here are some of my ATs.

They look pretty mundane and straight forward compared to some of the other's here.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

These samples are great. But they are examples of working around the problem. Mine included. @ is an old glyph from (If I remember correctly) Italian book keeping manuscripts.

It's been in PS1 fonts from the start, for a reason I can't figure out. And with e-mail it is now everywhere.

And because of that new prominance, should this glyph get some standard features? We've interpreted the original form (or not), and just worked around it, rather than stopped and see why it looks so awkward.

Could we find a way to make a standard way to incorporate @ to type design? We should be able to do that. Probably fight a lot during, but in the end find a good solution.

P.S. You can see the difference of @ and @ by just replying to this and then previewing; Courier has a designed @, while (Georgia?) has a generic version.

Mark Simonson's picture

Here are some of mine:

I tend toward the traditional form, but adapted to the typeface style. The more unconventional ones, like using a double-story a or having the loop attached at the top, don't work for me.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I agree with Mark; traditional form should be a base for the glyph. My concern is that intrinsically it does not follow any dimensions of the type design; it just floats within the ascender and descender, and we try to balance it with baseline.

I'm looking for a sandard form with x-height, ascender and descener to conform with the font. That's why my favourite has been a version starting with "d"; it still has "@" shape, but it works with the design, while suggesting to the "original" form.

But that's just me. Better solutions are welcome.

Mark Simonson's picture

I used to always align it with the figure/cap height, the idea being that it was most often used with numbers. Today, it is more likely that it will be used lowercase, so I center it (more or less) with the x-height. I sometimes include a raised version in the OT "case" feature.

Nick Shinn's picture

Tomi, what do you think of my Scotch Modern @, with no descender? (Third row down, third over.)
I found the model in De Vinne's Corrrect Composition (early 20th century, set in a modern face).
IMO it works well with caps, lining figures, lower case and oldstyle figures.
Memo to self: apply this form in some other faces.

Tomi from Suomi's picture


With proportions that does works very well, but what do you do with italic? Slant it more? Use the same glyph?

My opinion is that @ is a lower case glyph, and should be treated as such. I am looking for a good way to implement that.

This is my opinion. Any suggestions?

Ray Larabie's picture

@ is not a lowercase letter. It's not a capital letter. It's more like a dash, hashmark, asterisk, dagger, para, section. In the context of an email address, it shouts "hey, this is an email address". If you make it conform too much, it doesn't do it's job. When I make an @ . . . I think about the weight . . . obviously lighter so it doesn't look too dark. I figure out the vertical placement by typing a few email addresses and putting some numerals around it. There's a spot that feels comfortable. The top usually ends up about half way between the cap and x-height. The bottom, about half way from the ascender to the descender. Even when it's used with numbers, aligning with the top of the numerals often feels wrong. The @ is a free floating rebel . . . he knows where he's supposed to vertically align. There are some all caps display fonts situations where it really only makes sense to nail it to the cap and baseline.

Who's really using "stock" @ symbols these days anyway. Fonts with parts bin @ symbols were made about 15-20 years ago, no?

I think the less serious a font is the more whimsical it should be. It looks so out-of-place when a font has zany letters and a serious @. I don't like the "At" in place of an @ idea except as an alternate. It may not seem so clever to the customer who's trying to use the font to display email addresses and ends up having to borrow a proper @ from another font.

Nick: I always liked the Scotch Modern @: very cool.

Ray Larabie's picture

Come to think of it, a few Larabie Fonts have Blue Highway @s. I meant "proper" fonts . . . y'know.

nina's picture

Previous thread about @ design:

charles ellertson's picture

Remember that politically correct scholars in the States are now using the at symbol for a "gender neutral" character in Spanish. In the past month, we have set two books where "Latin@" occurs throughout the text, in both roman and italic.

My comment to the editor was that using the at symbol presented the female as being encircled by the male, with the only escape space at the bottom, and so small to require dieting to the point of fashion model thinness for any possibility of escape. Obviously, the use of the at symbol had to be a male-chauvinist plot.

But no luck. Make your at symbols accordingly, and remember the extra kern pairs needed . . .

mattaron's picture

Nick -- I've admired the Scotch Modern @ glyph since you used it decoratively in that Modern Suite specimen book, which I must now dig up and go admire some more. It's an excellent design solution.

Meanwhile, I've always wondered why -- in the main -- the glyph is based on an italic "a" in many roman serif faces, but in most upright sans faces the glyph is based on an upright "a."

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I’ve also wondered about that one.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Tomi: Could we find a way to make a standard way to incorporate @ to type design?

For heavens sake, No.

Tomi from Suomi's picture


You are right, we had this conversation before. I'd forgotten about that. Because it got us nowhere.

But this thread seems to have waken some people from generic @, so I think this is a worthy cause. I'm not looking for an instant (even though that would be brilliant) change.

Just thinking about this glyph, and why does it look like it does is a good start.
And Ray; way too many fonts still do have that old "at" that looks like this: @. Like this one we use on this site:@. See.

oldnick's picture

A few more...

daverowland's picture

I don't think you should look for a standard way to design any glyph. Especially glyphs like @, section, paragraph etc, these are 'letters' the vast majority of users (of display type) will never use, so why not have a bit of fun with them?

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Hi, Dave-

Instead of this type of @, I'm looking for something that works with the font it's part of.

riccard0's picture

I agree with typodermic: @ is not a letter, especially in modern usage. Neither it's a lettere-like glyph like & (even if could appear almost natural to compare the two).
I think that the most similar glyphs design-wise are parentheses: both @ and () need to work well with any combination and variation of uppercase, lowercase and numbers.

@charles_e: it happens in Italy too.

Jongseong's picture

It will be interesting to examine attitudes toward @ throughout different cultures. I would guess that there would be some interesting differences. In Korea, many if not most people will hand-write it as a circled 'a'. The various 'at' ligatures suggested above will be utterly incomprehensible as @ to Koreans. Are there any non-English-speaking countries for which @ is also understood as standing for 'at'?

sim's picture

Here the mine:

Arlo Vance's picture

Gabriel Martinez Meave has some interesting @ glyphs. See Mexica and Rondana for specific examples.


riccard0's picture

Jongseong: It will be interesting to examine attitudes toward @ throughout different cultures. I would guess that there would be some interesting differences. In Korea, many if not most people will hand-write it as a circled 'a'.

In Italy it is so far removed from any letter-like meaning or resemblance that it's called "chiocciola" (snail).

Nick Job's picture

Tomi, the problem with starting with a lower case d is if you are then giving the character both full l/c ascender and descender depth, which then makes the character look too big compared to the other l/c characters (which only have either an ascender or a descender, very rarely both (thorn?) and commonly neither. Now that's no problem if you subscribe to Ray's view suggested above that that the '@' needs to be bigger to do it's job (at least in email addresses) properly. But you definitely don't want your '@' looking like its a points size or two too big in relation to the rest of the font.

I'm currently designing an @ that is optically the same height as the caps but descends optically as far below the x-height as it did above. This means that the 'a' part of it, still sits within the lower case x-height which is tidy in my head but it's not as tall as the full l/c ascender and descender design.

The trouble is it then appears to unhealthily dip below the baseline in a line of caps so I've done a cap version of it too. Messy? Afraid so.

The beauty of Nick S's design for Scotch Modern is that you only need one version of it plus it sits beautifully on the baseline (the common reference for all three major styles within a font - upper case, lower case and even small caps. (Incidentally Nick, what did you do for small caps?) I'm not sure how well the Scotch Modern '@' performs as the kind of stand-out character that Ray was talking about but any sort of stand-out character would have constituted a defeat in Nick's mind, surely?

Nick Job's picture

One more thing, I have done an upright '@' (and litre and florin) in the upright and italic complements in the italic. Does that make me a bad person?

Jongseong's picture

In Italy it is so far removed from any letter-like meaning or resemblance that it's called "chiocciola" (snail).

Koreans call it ‘golbaengi’ (a type of sea snail), but that doesn't stop them from writing it as a circled ‘a’. This was quite surprising to me; I myself write it in a single continuous stroke as in the most usual printed form, but then again I was brought up mostly outside of Korea.

Repeatedly seeing lists where people filled in their email addresses by hand finally clued me in to the fact that most Koreans write @ as a circled ‘a’. I'm looking at my old-school mini address book right now. Out of 14 email addresses written by my Korean friends, 10 use a definite circled ‘a’ form and only 2 use unambiguous single-stroke @s. By contrast, all of my non-Korean contacts use single-stroke @s. It's a small sample because most of the entries are in my own handwriting rather than that of my contacts, but it's fairly representative of how Koreans write the @.

riccard0's picture

@Jongseong: If I remember correctly, on another thread you said that circled letters are pretty common for Koreans. So I suppose that those that aren't much typographically and/or technically savvy simply go for the known circled-a instead of the single-stroke @.
So, in Italy, few people draw a single-stroke @, while all the others try to draw some sort of scrawl.
I think we should wait until people will be thaught in school how to properly write @.

vinceconnare's picture

from Alice Rawsthorn: Read about MoMA's inspired decision to add the @ symbol to its design collection in my latest IHT column. Once an obscure accountancy symbol, the @ is now a supernova of the digital age and a familiar part of daily life. It was reinvented in 1971 when an American programmer, Raymond Tomlinson, was drafting the first em...


Nick Shinn's picture

Read my debunking on MOMA's blog:

Most posters there called BS on this nonsense.

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