Women in Type: a long-delayed ode to the unsung heroes of type design
Women’s pivotal role in the development of type design is under appreciated and that is about to change via Women in Type.
Headed by Prof. Fiona Ross and team the brand new online project aims to bring the women of type design and typography into the limelight with the in-depth study of the female powered type-drawing offices from 1910 till 1990.
The Leverhulme-funded research project led at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication of the University of Reading sheds a light into the ground breaking role of women in typography.
“Type design plays a fundamental role in visual communication: it is crucial to the textual representation of languages to afford literacies to global communities. Histories to date have largely overlooked type design’s importance, and concomitantly the key contributors to the type-design and manufacturing processes that developed in the twentieth century. Women were often central to this development, particularly in Britain within the major type-manufacturing companies of Monotype and Linotype” notes the site.
“Our project will provide the first socio-historical account of women’s role and responsibilities in type-drawing studios from 1910 to 1990 as experienced within the two companies: the Monotype Corporation and Linotype Limited (formerly Linotype-Paul Ltd and Linotype-Hell Ltd). A pilot study in 2016, which included visits to assess relevant archives, determined the scope of the project, its feasibility and the appropriateness of our research methodology. Focusing on the Monotype Corporation, whose type-drawing office was established in 1910, we were able to confirm the availability of relevant archival records and key personnel for interview.”
“Our preliminary investigations and interviews have already yielded valuable undocumented information about women working in this field and the significant roles they occupied. We were able to confirm that during the twentieth century women in type design, as in allied industries, increasingly took over roles traditionally held by men, which were vital to supplying the needs of the print industry. The Monotype and Linotype type-design departments, which had divergent practices, were both run or staffed principally by women from their inception. However, the details of these women’s positions and activities have been overlooked, and in particular their precise contributions to the type-design process during the rapidly changing social and technological environments of the period.”
The project’s team aims to “document agencies of change for women working in these type-drawing offices against three interconnected contexts: in terms of social history; in relation to technological developments; and in terms of contributions to typeface design. Using data gathered primarily through interviews, the analysis of historical records, and the examination of technical drawings and typeface proofs, we will determine accurate histories of the development of typeface design and manufacture. The findings will transform our understanding of women’s activities and status within the design-based industries from 1910 to 1990, making a profound interdisciplinary contribution to social and design histories while informing current type-design practice.”
From Dora Laing aka the head of the drawing section of the Monotype Type Drawing Office through Dora Pritchett and Patricia Saunders, the Women In Type project that benefits from a Leverhulme research project grant is a vital and long-delayed project that reshapes the history of typography as we know it.