10.30.09 Introduction

10.31.09 The Letter X

01.13.10 SFPIF Logo

02.09.10 Advaita

03.27.10 Fleur-de-Lis

06.09.11 Ampersands

10.02.11 Human Rights Logo

Haiti Ampersand

In 2010, The Society of Typographic Aficionados sponsored Font Aid IV, a project uniting the typographic and design communities in raising funds to expedite relief efforts in Haiti.

As my contribution to this effort, I created this ampersand as a hope for Haiti's future, when the current cloud of troubles has passed and the sun shines again for the Haitian people.


In 2011, The Society of Typographic Aficionados announced a call to action: Font Aid V a collaborative project uniting the typographic and design communities with a goal of raising funds to expedite relief efforts after the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

I created another ampersand for this effort this time with a style that I believe evokes the power and beauty that characterizes traditional Samurai culture.

Type designers often find the ampersand a wonderful opportunity to let loose with aesthetic exuberance, as the symbol represents a whole word (and) and thus is not affected by the spacing considerations that impinge upon all other letters and numerals in a font.

No less interesting than the decorative aspects of ampersands is the derivation of the word.

The term ampersand… is a corruption of and (&) per se and, which literally means "(the character) & by itself (is the word) and." The symbol & is derived from the ligature of ET or et, which is the Latin word for "and."

From Adobe Fonts

Any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A," "I," "&" and, at one point, "O") was preceded in the recitation by the Latin phrase "per se" ("by itself") to draw the students' attention to that fact. Thus the end of this daily ritual would go: "X, Y, Z and per se and." This last phrase was routinely slurred to "ampersand" by children rightly bored to tears, and the term crept into common English usage by around 1837.

From The Word Detective

Probably due to its simplicity, symmetry and frequent use as an element in decorative arts, I have been aware of the Fleur-de-lis for longer than I can recall. However, I have never considered it a particularly beautiful or well-designed symbol. This may be because the fleur-de-lis is a stylized image of an actual plant, rather than a symbol of an abstract concept.

So as I watched the Super Bowl in February (what a great game that was!) I studied the symbol on the sides of the Saints' helmets, and sketched and re-sketched until I had something I liked. By making the overall shape a 'diamond' (square turned 45 degrees), and making the leaves with circles, I brought a geometry to the fleur-de-lis that I don't think it's had before. I think that in the transition from nature to symbol, the artists had stopped a bit too early. So here's my new take on an old and widely revered image from heraldry and the decorative arts.



So, Saints, Louisiana, France, et alia,* this copyrighted fleur-de-lis is available for purchase.

*Latin for “and all o’ ya” – is that where Italia got its name?    ; )

This ad is on the inside front cover of the current (Spring 2010) issue of Yoga+ magazine… Available wherever awesome magazines are sold!


When this logo was in sketch form, the project was cancelled. But I like it as well as, or better than, any of my other logos – not because the torch symbol is in any way a fresh idea in the education world, but because the torch showed up only when I found a symmetrical solution to the group’s initials. Is it Greek to you?

Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships Logo

My first symbology posting is a lighthearted but factual poem about the symbolic uses of the letter X. It was written for, and read at “Fan Letters” – the October 29, 2009 launch party for Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen’s book, Lettering and Type (which includes a number of my ambigrams) at the Maryland Institute College of Art. As part of the festivities, 26 artists and designers each made a presentation about a letter of the alphabet.

Front Cover
Front Cover

Professor Langdons

There are several Professor Langdons. The best known Professor Langdon was invented by Dan Brown for his novel, Angels & Demons, and he wasn’t that well known until he appeared in another Dan Brown novel called The DaVinci Code. His first name is Robert. Except for the Robert part, he was named after the Professor Langdon whom this site regards, John Langdon (who, at the time, was a contract instructor at Drexel University – not yet a professor. But that’s another story.)

Angels & Demons Earth, Air, Fire, Water

Dan named his protagonist after John Langdon (sooner or later I’m going to start writing in the first person, but not yet), partly in appreciation for his contribution to Angels & Demons – the ambigrams. Robert Langdon is a symbologist – a person whose academic specialty is focused on the plethora of graphic symbols that human beings have designed as powerful visual cues to organizing and understanding the universe and our relationship to it. John Langdon (that’s me) is a graphic designer whose creative work is focused on designing symbols for the same purposes.


Strictly speaking, symbols are simple and stylized graphic shapes existing in a concise and easily repeated form – and because they address the concerns of all human beings, they don’t involve the alphabet or language of any particular culture. Most of Professor John Langdon’s work involves words. The words John treats artistically are words in the English language that refer to the same ideas and principles that symbols are often called upon to represent. This might be a limitation of John’s work, but the English language is becoming more and more universal every day. Thank goodness.

Not that John hasn’t designed symbols per se.
He has – mostly for corporate clients.

Kings Hill Love & Freedom
NY Fashion Industry Rehabilitation Hospital

Looking at these examples, you could figure out a lot about the business or the industry represented, and maybe even their names. Click the symbols to reveal the name of the business.

But more often than not, John’s passionate love of letters creeps in, even when it’s not obvious…

New Beginnings at Denbigh Eclipse Life Without Limits

In these examples the pictorial image is, to varying degrees, more powerful than the letterforms. In these images, the name of the business and the industry within which it operates are less powerfully represented, yielding a little to accommodate the initial letter or letters of the name. But you could probably still guess the ideas behind the images. Again, click to reveal the name of the business.

So, that’s a bit of an introduction to Professor (John) Langdon. This site will focus on symbols. Dan Brown pretty much invented the pursuit called “Symbology,” but it would be fair to say that Symbology is what we’ll do here.