Women in type?

pablohoney77's picture

I've been wondering about this for a while now (like a couple of days probably) and was prompted by another post in the "design" section and yet another post i read some time ago.

Yes, I know there are some great talented women in type design, but doesn't the field seem heavily weighted with men even today?

I'm wondering if anyone has compiled any kinds of statistics or could make an educated approximation of: what percentage of type designers have been women 1) since the advent of moveable type, 2) since 1960, 3) since 1990 and 4) as a percentage of type designers currently practicing the craft.

I guess these dates are fairly arbitrary and maybe someone can suggest some better cutoff points but my rationale goes something like this: for (1) i think it's fairly self explanitory (2) to find out how many women have been involved in type design since the itroduction of women into the (mainstream) workforce (3) to find out how many women have been involved in type in the digital age (4) self-explanitory.

It seems to me that there are more men interested in type than women, which strikes me as slightly strange (and i could be completely wrong in my assumptions) However maybe there are just more male type hobbyists (like me) whereas in the professional realm the field is more even. I don't know the answers to these questions, but I thought this would be worth discussing. If any of you have thoughts, insights, additional questions relating to this topic i'd love to hear what you have to say. thanks for looking.

kennmunk's picture

I think type design is related to model railway building, putting tiny ships in bottles and playing online football manager games. You don't see many women there either.

No seriously, there seems to be aspects in designing an entire typeface that may appeal more to the typical male mind than the typical female mind.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I don't offer any explanation, but I can certainly attest to the relative paucity of women working professionally in type design and type production. There are some, but they are a distinct minority. (No offense to Fiona, Dyana, Glenda, Geraldine, Veronika or Linnea, among others.)

pablohoney77's picture

so Miss Tiffany - whatever happened to the Alphabetties idea?

hrant's picture

And interestingly, whatever female type designers there are are mostly working with script fonts. Which is why women did relatively well at Morisawa, a competition with pretty strong calligraphic leanings.


tsprowl's picture

Well here's something then:

It's my observation that there's many more women teaching typography then men - least in this city.

But anyway, around here I have more female friends who are interested in, and practice and teach but don't do competitions or even try to promote their work...it's more hobby - like needlepoint (haha). Really, besides those I've met on typophile, I don't think I know any men interested or working in type.

Alphabetties went private last time I checked.

eomine's picture

Looking at the winners of the bukva:raz awards, I counted 9 women among 100 winners.
Almost all of them made 'experimental' or 'dingbats' fonts (the only exception I remember right now is Sibylle Hagmann's Cholla).

dan_reynolds's picture

Linotype's ITDC 2003 also only had two women out of 13 winners

hrant's picture

And symbol fonts are not really fonts, of course - they're just a bunch of pictures with easy keyboard access.

We need to look at text fonts, and there the gender difference is staggering.


dan_reynolds's picture

Linotype just released a new "text" face by a young female designer, Veronika Grüger. She was profiled in this month's issue of the German magazine PAGE (content not online :-( ), and spoke at the Leipzig Museum of Printing's recent Type Conference. Unfortunately, there is no information online about her herself, but here is a link to her type family, Veronika.


All that I know about her is that she recently graduated from Leipzig's prestigious Hochschule für Buchkunst und Gestaltung, and that Veronika was part of her graduation project. She lives and works as a freelance designer in West German G

pablohoney77's picture

what you wrote is kind of the hunch that i had, but i guess i need to do some actual research to find out if the lack of female role models is really a factor.

also on a side note

dan_reynolds's picture

I would be honored to work with a designer as talented as Nadine Chahine. Unfortunately, her work visa was denied by the German Federal Work Agency

dan_reynolds's picture

Well, I can't think of a single African-American type designer.

A type designer from Japan, Akira Kobayashi, is now the Type Director at Linotype, a German coporation that was originally founded in the United States.

Ryuichi Tantento, another Japanese designer, designed Pirouette, one of the winners in Linotype's ITDC 2003 competition (http://www.linotype.com/6-23-6-17051/pirouette.html)

dan_reynolds's picture

>African-American: Joshua Darden of HFJ

Oh, good! I wish that there would be more.

Does anyone know any type designers from Africa?

Si_Daniels's picture

Frederick wrote > I think it's easier for guys to devote themselves

union's picture

women are to busy ironing and cooking to make type...hehehe

union's picture

African type designers... try Saki Mafundikwa


Or Brode Vosloo


union's picture

African and a women :

Margaret Calvert (south africa)

and more African font links here :


union's picture


I was just kiding, I've been looking for female type designers for Union for a while.

Perhaps I should have offered ironing and cooking services as well as royalties in my advert...hahaha


hrant's picture

> Joshua Darden

But he's half, right?


hrant's picture

If somebody is half black and half white, should he be considered more black than white?
It seems to me you've already made a "public assumption" about Joshua being black!

Does it matter if he's half or full?
Only if it matters if he's one or the other.
And I think it most certainly does. Everything matters.

> she's too busy drawing text faces.

Her own designs?


I'm not saying women can't make text fonts, what I'm saying is that they're not making many of them, and I'm not sure why (especially considering Simon's point about the technical aspect), but I don't want to think it has much to do with materialism, on the other hand I'm dead sure it's not purely social.

And why has there been only one really famous female philosopher, and she was a lesbian (gob bless her soul)? BTW, why are so many female comedians lesbians? These are not rhetorical questions - I genuinely wonder.


union's picture

Maybe we need to get some lesbians interested in type design? I think they have these "gay" magazines, we could advertise?

advert suggestions welcome...

hrant's picture

"Do you think finials are over-rated? Is B your favorite letter? Then a DeVry degree in text face design is your path to success! Just forget about affording those Gaultier accessories though."


dyana's picture

Okay, I am done drawing text faces (not my own) for now.

I have way too many thoughts to put into one concise post, so I'll just put down a few things.

1. There are fundamental differences between men and women as a whole. It's more nature than nurture.

2. Please don't hate me, my sisters, for saying that.

3. Despite differences, anyone is capable of doing anything they want.

4. Josh Darden is 100% awesome.

5. Broad generalizations must have exceptions.

6. Text faces are less fun to draw than displays, but only because they are lower in contrast and allow less room for pleasant little idiosyncracies. But that's just my taste.

7. To really find out why there aren't more women in type design, you will have to ask women who had the opportunity but turned it down (i.e, graphic designers, Reading graduates, etc).

8. Everyone needs to buy the first season of Wonder Woman on DVD and marvel at how something could be so feminist yet so sexist at the same time.

9. My thoughts are mainly influenced today by this fascinating book. While it makes a strong case for the nature vs. nurture debate, it also asserts that human beings vary so much, ergo we should focus more on the individual than on trying to categorize everyone into two groups.

hrant's picture

Dyana, would you please stop impressing me already?

> because they are lower in contrast

This is interesting. I've noticed that when I draw letterforms on paper I make them higher contrast than what they have to end up being. I guess I'm essentially drawing the display cut.

> allow less room for pleasant little idiosyncracies.

I think this depends on the types of idiosyncracies, and because text type is inherently set smaller the details become part of the texture and don't stand out, hence to some extent idiosyncracy becomes more tolerable, probably even more functional. Think of Dwiggins for example.

> focus more on the individual than on trying to categorize everyone into two groups.

I agree about the total relevance of individuality, but generalizations do help organize and direct thought - it's a natural heuristic mechanism.


hrant's picture

BTW, Reading should really put out a compendium of student work, like covering each five years in blocks or something.


John Hudson's picture

I'd be interested to know what percentage of students in type design programmes are women, and how many of them manage to get into type design professionally on graduation. I'm impressed by the number and quality of women students at Reading, and some graduates seem to be succeeding in making a living at least in part from designing type. Anyone know what the numbers are in The Hague?

During the industrial period, both Monotype and Linotype employed many women in their drawing offices. I believe the majority of Fiona Ross' team at Linotype's non-Latin department in the 1970s were women. Of course, the 'designers' whose work they prepared for manufacture were most often men, but I think one needs to give full recognition to the degree of typographic skill and knowledge that some of these women posessed and the degree to which they contributed to the creation of many typefaces. Of course, Fiona herself is a designer in her own right, and its been a great pleasure to collaborate with her.

By the way, I can attest that cooking and ironing do not get in the way of designing type.

hrant's picture

> cooking and ironing do not get in the way of designing type.

They do, after all, deal with hotmetal! ;-)


Hildebrant's picture

"Do you think finials are over-rated? Is B your favorite letter? Then a DeVry degree in text face design is your path to success! Just forget about affording those Gaultier accessories though."

This is why I love you man. ;) LOL.
What about my Prada shoes, where do they fit into this type design lifestyle?

dezcom's picture

>we should focus more on the individual than on trying to categorize everyone into two groups.<

At last, the voice of reason is spoken.

Perhaps typographers are used to categorizing because it is vital in distributing type--Here I mean putting hot metal type characters back into their correct boxes in the job case.

Why should it matter if the designer is a particular gender or race or from a certain part of the world? What matters is the quality of the work. The only need is too determine if any group has been held back from the opportunity to contribute fonts or anything else. The truth is, there is not much money in font design (unless you are a rip-off house) and it takes a certain "love" for letterforms that only the individual knows they have to get involved in it. Is there a "Good-old-Boy" network controlling type design that does not allow minorities or women to design type? I don't know. My guess is that type design is too small-potatoes to warrant such activity. We as typographers should make sure not to discriminate against those different than ourselves--not that I have ever seen any such discrimination anyway. We should encourage and embrace all who care to join us in our little profession and I am sure that we do. I don't feel it would be proper to label designers by their sex, language, religion, place of origin, or their sexual preferences. Just let them be who they are as individuals.


welshfontofyle's picture

Here's a link to some interesting statistical information:http://humanresources.about.com/library/weekly/aa032603a.htm (Women and Work: Then, Now, and Predicting the Future for Women in the Workplace).Page3 deals with Women in Science and Technology Careers. The issue is endemic. The biggest challenge is not to marginalize, generalize, and effectually paralize the potential for growth.The field of type design has so many interesting aspects both aesthetic & technological that it is an agreed upon shame its not more diverse... here's a challenge - rather than talk about it, what practical steps would you/could you take to do about this?

pablohoney77's picture

The only need is too determine if any group has been held back from the opportunity to contribute

exactly the reason i started this thread. i believe in diversity but i know that i am boud by views that are distinctly male and that are distinctly American. the reason why i'm interested in minorities is that i feel they have a lot to contribute that i could learn from.
i didn't start this tread because i wanted to point out that men are "better" at type design or at anything. Simply stated there are significant experiences that shape a person - and their work that depend on sex, language, religion, place of origin, etc. i want to learn from all these people who have different experiences and different points of view.
True, we are all individuals and have our own life experience that shapes us but some factors (such as those you listed) can be generalized to a certain extent. I believe that i could learn certain things on an individual level from one-on-one contact and there are other things to be learned from making well-formed opinions from genralizations.
This is the reason i ask about the experience of the woman type designer - not to discriminate, but to be educated about what their particular experience is like, what their special needs are, how to help integrate more women into the field and other goals which i feel are worthy pursuits.

hrant's picture

> what practical steps would you/could you take to do about this?

Here is one admittedly small thing I suggested at the ATypI Boston conference, during a formal brainstorming session there, where it was asked how we could get more women involved: Whenever a woman is chosen as a "token" (for example as one of the five jurors in a type competition), she should say "I'll only participate if there are two of us".

During that discussion I also opined that the main reason to involve more women is because they could teach us things that men can't. I believe in celebrating difference.


hrant's picture

Women should be given special attention in type because they're 50% of the population but like 5% of type designers*. The imbalance causes discord between the resultant designs and society, and it should be addressed, that's all. To me that makes it the right thing to do. Not discriminating against is another topic - we're not even close to discriminating against women in type, since we have so few of them.

* Worse with blacks. About 1% of attendees at TypeCon were black. The good news is that that's 1% more than ever before! :-/

And I want to celebrate any and all differences, especially the most important one in life, gender.


heidi's picture

Guys! Too much philosophy!!! The answer is very very simple and clear: I prefer 6.5 M a year; and not 50-80 k, more or less.

matt_c's picture

my wife clare and i were discussing this the other day. she asked me to try and name any female designers (graphic or type) over the age of 30. then try doing the same for males and notice the disparity.

as an example, the reading course at undergraduate level has always had a high proportion of female students, often out-numbering the males. both genders graduate and get jobs in the design industry. but then babies occur (amongst other things), and it seems less women go back to becoming designers.

pablohoney77's picture

personally i'd prefer 80K/year instead of 17, but hey, you take what you can get!

matt_c's picture

most type designers (and typographers, designers etc) don't do it for the money. they do it because they love what they do.

well i do anyway :-)

matt_c's picture

double post

union's picture

From my own experience, I was never taught type design at college, and my interest in type design came out of reading other designers speak about it.

I was never encouraged to design type, and even my friends in design think it's a bit odd (My girlfriend tells people I am a fontgeek... ).

I guess that all the people I know who design type have gravitated towards it themselves, without encouragement and maybe in those circumstances, more men then women take up type....

Just like Star Trek!

As for what can change this, well I think all design students should be introduced to type, and creating type. As design classes now are at least 50% women (in the UK at least), maybe an introduction to type would encourage more female designers to develop an interest in type.

But I think everyone (in the design field at least) should be more aware of type design / designers and the work that goes in to making a typeface, maybe if every student had to make a typeface for class, then they would appreciate proffessional type designers work, and be more willing to part with hard cash for fonts when they reach the working world.


as8's picture

Dante used to like Beatrice.


kennmunk's picture

In November I'm running a workshop, I'm splitting the students up in groups and I'm thinking about making all-women and all-men groups as well as some mixed.

Stephen Coles's picture

I've also been puzzled by the lack of women making careers in type design, especially when some of the best student work is often female. For example, another Veronika (3rd!), Veronika Burian made some beautiful text type at Reading and she's speaking in Prague: http://www.atypi.org/08_Prague/30_program/40_speakers/view_person_html?personid=898 Oh! Looks like she's also now working at Dalton Maag. Cool. Guess there's another exception. Also note her classmates, Sara Soskolne, whose Motet [PDF] looks like a gloriously useful text system, and Nadine Chahine who will be joining you at Linotype soon, Dan!

Stephen Coles's picture

Latin-American: Many.
African-American: Joshua Darden of HFJ

Zara Evens's picture

>>women are to busy ironing and cooking to make type...hehehe

Ouch! I would much rather draw letterforms and play with type than I would iron or cook. It is about time for a role reversal, so I always make a point to take my clothes to a male-operated dry cleaner. :-)

Watch for the Alphabetties, they are waiting for the right moment to make their bold appearance.

Stephen Coles's picture

Um, I don't know and I'm not inclined to make a public assumption.

I asked Dyana to weigh in but she says she's too busy drawing text faces.

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