hrant's picture

Is blackletter masculine, while Roman is feminine?
It tends to be darker, but also narrower, but certainly more rigid and angular too.

If so:
Is contemporary typography overly feminine, making a blackletter revival [even more] justified?


pablohoney77's picture

what i like about blackletter is its androgeny. i really like the contrast of the strong dark forms and the delicate embelishments and script inspired forms. Even texturas which i'd say lean more masculine in the blackletter family have the graceful gothic capitals. maybe frakturs are more masculine, but the influence of the brush infuses femininity to my interpretation of the letterforms. I'd place rotundas more on the femenine side, but the heavy strokes and unfussy forms lend a hint of masculinity. To me roman forms are more masculine with their rigid structure brought basically into alignment of the stone chiseled forms. Actually I think most types have a good balance between the masculine and the femenine. What makes us want to classify a type as one or the other? It's interesting to think about.

hrant's picture

> what i like about blackletter is its androgeny.

Yes - my thoughts exactly! And this androgeny is superbly encapsulated in the fraktur "o".

But you really think Roman is masculine? It's all round and airy - very feminine to me.


pablohoney77's picture

actually i'd say the majascule is more masculine and the miniscule more feminine but the contrasting angular/rounded nature of the modern roman alphabet gives it great balance. I'm particularly fond of it myself. but again why am i sexxing type? LOL!

emilie's picture

I think you'll find masculine and feminine fonts in all families. It's usually just a matter of curves... ^.^

pablohoney77's picture

LOL! So are curves then feminine and straight lines masculine?

emilie's picture

I think curves (in a broad sense) can look masculine and some feminine. It's probably very personnal too. Just to go countercurrent, I'd say Bembo looks masculine and Frutiger looks feminine to me. I could go in details why but I'd need to know the english vocabulary for the letter parts and I don't yet =)

NvdK's picture

>what i like about blackletter is its androgeny<

It is stolen out of my hart.
I presume that the surrounding where you place the letter of use the letter makes it more masculine or feminine.

hrant's picture

> So are curves then feminine and straight lines masculine?



pablohoney77's picture

i shoulda realized it was just that freudian.

emilie's picture

I think subtle details are very feminine and things that are more chiseled are more masculine.

Seriously though, it would be nice to figure this type gender stuff out, maybe it would help make some logos targetting women less cheesy-looking.

This reminds me of Hrant's post about Mrs. Eaves being a beautiful woman with a speech problem. Each have their own personnality, we could probably even put photos next to them =)

as8's picture

I`d say that Roman is masculine and (proper) italic is feminine,
but I`m not sure it has much to do with Blackletter (in Italian, Gotico) anatomy.
Anyway, this is very funny:

Joe Pemberton's picture

Certainly, in a general sense, more and better black-
letter types can be offered that give an art director more
range or a broader palette to work from. But to suggest
that a revival is more justified because of masculine
qualities is a stretch.

A revival is an organic thing, it won't come from a panel
of specialized practitioners. Getting type designers to
create a revival is like trying to push a string. You have
to get end-users (graphic designers, etc.) to use it.

Perhaps a better approach to help it back into the
mainstream (which it certainly deserves!) would be to
raise awareness and provide more research. The kind
you've already shown. This will give designers the
courange to use it and the ammunition to sell it to their

An example. A recent project I did for a biotech firm
involved creating a program for their key customers.
The program had to be 'trusted,' 'exclusive' and
'professional' without being 'promotional.' One of the
directions we pitched was a blackletter word mark. The
client initially loved it for it's journalistic flavor, but in the
user testing it totally backfired. The users believed it to
be too 'journalistic.' The audience is generally used to
being misrepresented in the media, and therefore the
program would lose credibility. I wouldn't expect this
broad perception, among this audience, to change in
their lifetimes. But that won't stop me from trying it
again, given an appropriate audience.

I'd love to start a thread here showing some good
blackletter usage.

Miss Tiffany's picture

All typefaces can be androgynous ... I think it depends on how it is used and by whom it is used.

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