Choosing a font - Tackling Homophobia Campaign

Bites of Life's picture


I'm trying to find different typefaces that will enhance the content for a campaign aimed at tackling homophobia. The target audience for this campaign are young people experiencing a transitional period in defining their sexual orientation. Teenagers who are scared to express who they truly are in a society full of stereotypes and prejudices. Your thoughts and assistance would be very helpful.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

You could use typefaces by gay type designers, and perhaps mention it in your brochure/poster/whatever. I'm not gay, but I'd guess taste among those who are differs quite a lot. Using something feminine like Didot Headline in fluorescent pink would be to stereotypical in my eyes.

I'm not sure if it would be alright mentioning names here, but I know about at least one.

Bendy's picture

I think the sexual orientation part of this question isn't quite relevant. It's more important to choose a font that communicates 'approachable, understanding, appealing to young people'. Or something else...I don't have the design brief.

I wouldn't choose a font just because the person who designed it happened to be gay. That would be the same as positive racism, and could contribute to stereotyping. ("Gay people are so creative" kind of nonsense.) Surely the point of the campaign is that sexuality itself is a non-issue, and the difficulty lies in growing up in a society with prejudices.

Pick a font that fits the purpose. Have a look at what other welfare organisations are doing.

I've designed promotional stuff for gay organisations but always picked fonts that communicate their tone, as I would for a straight organisation.

aluminum's picture

Yea, in terms of picking a typeface, the subject matter of the poster is a bit of a red herring. The typeface itself won't cure homophobia. But it can help communicate a message, so formulate the message and find the typeface that best works for that.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Good call, Bendy. I focused more on the target audience: "young people experiencing a transitional period in defining their sexual orientation".

Bites of Life's picture

Thank you to all of you for your prompt reply to my question.

Frode, it would be great if you could send me the name of those typographers to analyse their designs. If you feel more comfortable send me an email to my personal account
I really want to keep away from stereotypes and experiment with typography, text and content.

Bendy, the point of my campaign is exactly as you say, 'sexuality itself is a non-issue, and the difficulty lies in growing up in a society with prejudices'. Obviously, a gay designer won't necessarily design just towards this social issue but the chances of them being involved with similar projects may be higher.

The tone of the campaign is to encourage young people to come out, to be confident, to appreciate life regardless of their sexual orientation. I've recently been looking at wood type block and am considering it as an option. Wood type would represent diversity, nature, origins. Typefaces used for organisations supporting the LGB Community are mostly handwritten. There is one typeface used by one of the organisations that I really like – ‘knockout’ with its tall x-height in the lower characters.

Aluminum, you are completely right. I have gathered lots of info and done a fair amount of research towards the topic, very little of the information I found is innovative and the topic is a bit of a red herring, as you describe it. I’m finding it really difficult to keep away from stereotypes and to focus on typography.

Si_Daniels's picture

Gotham would be a good choice here.

paragraph's picture

Oh, you mercenary herring you, Sii.

beejay's picture

this thread is probably worth reading.

Bendy's picture

Wow, that other thread is a real mess!

It's hard to make an informed font choice without knowing exactly what you are designing. Are you making adverts, info packs, branding the organisation or doing web design? We should be careful to focus on the design.

For me and lots of gay (and straight) people, sexuality plays no part in professional life. I realise this project needs to talk about sexuality in an open way but by purposely picking a font by a gay designer there is the risk of implying a person's sexuality is relevant at work.

I can see however there are a lot of different points of view so it's going to come down to you.

I'd choose some lively sans. Woodtype is an interesting idea too. Will you post your design when you've decided?

nina's picture

Ben, great comments – I totally agree.

I'd focus on the "feel" the thing should have. Maybe that's being proud, "bold", maybe a little quirky but happy with it. Not a font that feels like it's trying to be invisible, but not one that feels like it's trying to be "different" either; but one that goes its own way, proudly, and happily. Now if only I had an example :)
Actually, a "lively sans" sounds good.
In any case, I think I would avoid casting the type too much in terms of perceived genderedness in this case. That can so easily slip into embarrassing, blunt cliché.
Like… whatever you do, don't do anything with swashes! :-\

Queneau's picture

I agree with Nina. IMHO it's not a good idea to try to find a typeface with a explicit message of itself, like Comic Sans for kids, bodoni for classical music aficionados etc... This is the kind of typographic pigeonholing I think you should avoid, especially for this kind of campaign, which is about stereotyping and pigeonholing. Making a design that looks very 'gay' (like pink, feminine and/or macho) might actually scare of a big part of the people you try to reach. You could play with these cliches, but this is a slippery slope. I would choose a modern, open-minded typeface, with no explicit connotations. Knockout could be good, but I'd rather go for something a bit cleaner, but not quite as clean as Gotham. I can't come up with names right now, but I hope this helps.

cheerio Queneau

Bendy's picture

I'm thinking the 'lively sans' could be something like Ronnia or even Cora from TypeTogether.

I wondered briefly about FS Lola but it's a bit too juicy somehow, despite being the corporate font of the Royal Bank of Scotland (except with a modified u).

Bliss or FF Milo are worth a look too.

aluminum's picture

I think it's akin to 'pick a paint color for my gay friends house'. There really aren't 'gay' colors anymore than there are 'gay fonts'. What matters is context beyond the fact that its a gay issue. Gay people don't live in pink houses, after all.

Finding a 'gay font' is actually going against the campaign, IMHO. The whole point of combating homophobia is to show that aside from the particular sex they date, there really is no difference between gay people and everyone else.

As such, I'd suggest working on the overall campaign first. Get the message/verbiage pinned down and then see which way the visuals head. At that point, I think one could start suggesting a typeface based on that criteria.

sch2525's picture

I feel that a closested gay teen would like something clean and modern, or even more traditional. If I was afraid to come out of the closet, a poster with rainbows and Raavie would scare me even more (not that anyone here suggested that).

Bendy's suggestions of Bliss or Milo are what I'm thinking of.

Check out this campaign in Boston a few years ago:

microspective's picture

First of all, you mentioned Knockout. Just bought four weights of it from H&FJ. Love it.

Secondly, and more importantly, I have a comment about your branding and how you word this campaign's agenda. You say it's to "tackle homophobia," then you said it's to promote young closets to come out. I suppose that's under the homophobia umbrella (fear of being recognized as gay), but to many straight folk, the term homophobia has little to do with those who are not out and way more to do with fear/misunderstanding/hate/threat of or by homosexual society on the whole.

If the goal is to do both, consider coming up with a concise mission statement. For example, the American Lung Association's mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. It clearly delineates two separate but related ideas. Anyway, you see where I'm going. Best of luck.

@Scott: "If I was afraid to come out of the closet, a poster with rainbows and Raavie would scare me even more." Very well said. Down with taboo, misunderstood design approaches.

Bendy's picture

> The tone of the campaign is to encourage young people to come out,

That bit scared me ;)

It's a difficult project and everyone has an opinion. Luckily it seems we are all saying similar things here (for once!)

Good luck.

1985's picture

A context always helps me to choose type, though quite often it is not apparent in the finished design. I find it aids decision making and guides my process. The obvious context here might lead to stereotypes etc, so you might have to look for broader contexts.

One context might be challenging the status quo or ideas of normality.
I'm sure there are lots of typefaces that fit this idea (and plenty of clever people here to suggest them!)

1985's picture

The more I think about this the less I think any targeting is a good idea.

Bites of Life's picture

Thank you very much for all your comments.
I've been researching the typefaces suggested and claryfing the content of my campaign. 'Tackling Homophobia'
Please find enclosed some of the layouts I've been working on. I find it difficult to define if it'll work in any media rather than posters.

I dont know how to upload the postes in a small size for a better visualisation. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Please let me know your further comments.
Have a great weekend

Bites of Life's picture


Bendy, thank you very much for your recommendation of using FS Lola, I really liked it, works really well with the content. The layout is getting shape though I'm still studing the combination the text and the message to display in the poster/s. To represent a series of posters I was considering to combine different sets of words with a paragraph of text based in articles, statidistics and annual reviews. These are some of the sets of words I'm working on.

or Success



Once the Layout is achieved I'm thinking to apply it bright colours in the background enhanced by the inclusion of motifs, ornaments representing the nature and symbolising life.

Let me know your comments.
Do you think the question in the poster work 100%?


Bendy's picture

Hi Laura

Glad you liked FS Lola...I wondered if it seemed too jolly for a serious topic. Maybe others can comment. Are you actually doing this for Stonewall?

I think the strongest question is "Why does there have to be an odd one out?"

I would remove the ellipsis and scale each line of the question to be the same length as the WHY (maybe with WHY in caps too). It's hard to say exactly what else to do with the layout as there's no graphic elements yet and it's hard to tell what tone we're aiming for. I wouldn't use a big question mark, just keep one in the text, there's no reason to emphasise it when WHY is so big already.

I think 'transsexual' prefers to have two s's (but both spellings are possible). And there's a spelly in 'homoxexual'!

Hope that's helpful :)

Bites of Life's picture

Thanks Bendy.

Perhaps you are right, FS Lola may be a bit jolly for the question matter but one of the reasons for which I think works perfectly is in the attempt to approach teenagers with +16 age. Have a look the new layouts with graphic elements and potential colours I placed in flickr, my username is 'Bites of life'.
I've spoken with Stonewall to gather research and went down to their offices in Waterloo. They haven't seen this designs yet. This project is part of my final major project, I designed the brief and picked the issue by myself, simply because I disagree with injustice in the world. Hopefully Stonewall want to use them for one of their campaigns.

Lately, I've been working in the content and the combination of words, I'm quite happy with it. Also, I divided the question in two different sections to facilitate the comprehension of information. Step 1 you select the odd one out, then Step 2 you read why is the odd one out. This layout is the latest I've achieved.
Now, I'm working in the colour and patterns. I need to have it printed and ready by Thursday afternoon.

I've decided to upload just one image here because I don't know how to convert them to a comfortable size. The other series are in my flickr's account: 'Bites of Life'.

All your comments will be really much appreciated.


[images moved with permission.]

Bites of Life's picture

I've just realised that you can see the prints one by one here if you save them and open them, make sure that you have .png at the end of the files'name.

[images removed by permission.]


Bendy's picture

You can resize the pictures in Photoshop by going to Image>Image size then choosing the resolution. 550 pixels wide is good for Typophile. These big PNGs will be slowing down this page. Actually it looks like you are not using Photoshop (the text is not anti-aliased).

I wonder if you are using a grid to align the columns of text. The columns 'which' and 'why' and 'homosexual' don't quite look evenly distributed. Also I'd hang the w of 'which' and 'why' into the margin slightly to compensate for the shape (outdent slightly).

I'd also move the whole text up slightly (optically centred not geometrically centred on the page).

Hope that's helpful :)

Bites of Life's picture

Thanks Bendy,

You're right. I'm using Illustrator for the whole process, then I have exported as png format. I'll resize them in Photoshop in the future.

Good tips about the w, I'll move into the margin to compensate,I was wondering if I should before you said it because It was difficult to align it with the rest of the text. The poster with homosexual I certainly forgot about aligning it as the rest of the posters, good spot. Also, I'll follow your advise to compensate the whole composition.
I just realise that I could actually try without the ellipsis as you suggested in a previous message.

Thank you so much for your support.


Bendy's picture

Also, I'd strongly recommend you to use the word 'gay' rather than 'homosexual'. You'll find Stonewall doesn't use 'homosexual' and most style guides prefer 'gay'.

Bites of Life's picture

Really? The thing is homosexual refers to attraction and/or sexual behavior between people of the same sex, or to a sexual orientation, in other words lesbian and gay. If I place gay, I have to change the rest of the words and it would be oriented just to the male sector?.

I'm doubing also between - attitude, prejudice, respect & tolerance. Can attitude be misunderstanded I was thinking to match this combination with a different word such as, friendship, approachability,sociability, appreciation, perception or understanding?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Your limiting the people who might be able to comment by posting some large images.

With my moderator hat on: Please post smaller images. Thank you.

Bites of Life's picture

Sorry, I've tried to delete them. Do you know if I can delete them without deleting the topic?

Bites of Life's picture

Finally, I resize them. My apologies!

Bendy, I really like the exclusion of the ellipsis.
Thanks for your support

Bites of Life's picture

It should be an application to allow us to get rid of the images in the posts.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I can delete them. Do I have your permission?

Bendy's picture

'Gay' includes gay men and lesbians. Check the Stonewall website.

You could also change 'heterosexual' to 'straight'.

Bites of Life's picture

Please would you be able to delete all the big files?. Thank you

Bites of Life's picture

I'm questioning whether it'll work as a poster. I doesn't impact with the message when
you first see it. Actually, you need to read the paragraph to get the message.
Bendy you suggestion make complete sense. I was using safer terms but all is very wordy.
Thanks, I'm considering it.

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