Recently I have been asked by three students (2 female and 1 male) my opinion on how successful women are becoming in a male dominated business. And also why typography has traditionally been such a boys club?
Embarrassingly I didn't at the time (and still don't) have a good answer for these questions - Of course I respond by discussing the brilliance of Beatrice Warde and the major contribution she made to type, I have even rambled on about the role Sarah Eaves played in Baskerville's work, and talked at length about contemporary female practitioners I respect and admire. On all three occasions I made what could be - at best - described as a clumsy articulation of the important roles women play in type culture and the state of any real or perceived gender imbalance in our industry.
I have experienced sexism first hand in my career but I suspect lots of women (and men) from many different industries face some kind of sex based prejudice or assumption in their professional lives. I think that is more a commentary on the person who is being gender biased than it is on the entire profession. But I guess if gender wasn’t at all relevant in practice I wouldn’t have been compelled to chose TypographHer as my handle!
In the last 8 weeks there were a number of discussions (and debates) on sexism in the creative industries (and specifically type) on forums and social media. Last month Dyana Weissman published an excellent series on Womens Voices in Type which I found to be an intelligent, engaging and surprising read. Today - via Amy Papaelias - I stumbled upon this cool graduation project called Typequality by Kimberly Ihres which operates as a platform for discovering and sharing typefaces designed by women. And while reading Dyana's articles last month I also found a brilliant perspective published earlier by Verena Gerlach, which posed the question: Where are the women in type design?
So it seems there is a growing critical mass of questioning around gender and sexism in type. And as a direct response a new community called Alphabettes has formed! This week we made our first public outing in the form of Alphabettes.org a showcase for work, commentary, and research. This brand new platform of type, typography and lettering is run by 76 women in the business! I am honored to be part of this community and was a little star-stuck to see the talented line up of members in our ranks! Discover the bettes here!
The website was built by Amy Papaelias and Indra Kupferschmid, (who were the perfect choices to take on such an effort given they 'like making and breaking things on the web'). Each morning I would jump into slack to excitedly chart the ladies collaborative process which was insanely efficient. As ideas bounced back and forth between Germany and the US. (The speed at which this site was built is totally putting the redesign and build of typographHer.com to shame!) The first interview is now live and by Liron Lavi Turkenich profiling Alice Savoie - it is a great read - check out the interview here. Each week the alphabettes.org site banner will change - The current one is by Veronika Burian, featuring her Birdy typeface. But check back regularly to see new content, eye-candy, thinking and interviews and to chart what happens when these ladies of letters get together, to share knowledge, support one another and publish? I think it will be exciting, and I am thrilled to be a part of it! Thank you so much to Nina for the opportunity to be involved.