From Edward Johnston to Stanley Morison, the history of typography is filled with memorable male designers. Go looking online for women’s contribution to the profession, however, and the results come up disappointingly short.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of women working in type — rather it points to an industry that has long underappreciated its female members. University of the Arts graduate Amber Weaver was well aware of this issue, and in April 2019 she started addressing it.
Weaver is the founder of Femme Type, a platform that looks to “celebrate type designers who identify as being a woman”. For the last year, she has worked to this mission by putting on events, guest editing magazines and sharing work, with the ultimate aim of showcasing the ground-breaking work being done by the women of the world of type design.
“There just wasn’t a platform celebrating their work”
As Weaver explains to Design Week, the lack of representation for women in “books, blogs and just generally across the industry” was the driving force behind establishing Femme Type.
“I was certain they were out there,” she says. “There just wasn’t a platform celebrating their work.”
Deciding to take the job on herself, Weaver started with one of the very platforms that was part of the problem: books. Reflecting on this, kicking off the whole mission with a book was a “strange way” to start things off, she says, given that at the time Femme Type had no other platform.
The process of establishing the Femme Type book Kickstarter was, she says, fraught with “sleep-deprived nights: “[I was] worrying if it would meet its target, and whether Femme Type as an initiative would do well at all.”
Despite her worries, it turned out that plenty of people were invested in recognising the role of women in modern type design. The book raised more than half of its initial funding target in the first 24 hours; and 100 per cent by its third day.
“Recognition, collaboration and application”
Then and now, Weaver says her organisation has worked to three main principles: to recognise the work being done by women; to create opportunities for collaboration between women; and to encourage the application of work by women in commercial design projects.
Each principle, she says, has different ramifications for type designers’ careers, and is an important step towards parity within the industry. Encouraging paid work, she says for example, is crucial: “It’s one thing to feature someone’s work on an Instagram that gets loads of engagement, which don’t get me wrong is great.
“But it’s another thing to apply the work in a commercial design context that capitalises the hard work the creator has put in.”
“I always imagine what it would be like to have stumbled across us years ago”
Of the three mission statements however, Weaver says the most important aspect of her work comes with the first: recognition.
“I always imagine what it would be like to have stumbled across our platform years ago,” she says, adding that she hopes this unprecedented recognition and celebration of women in type design is enough to encourage more into the profession.
And from a professional perspective, she hopes the recognition of the work being done across the industry by women is enough to make “commissioners and creative directors take that extra small step in their thought process about who they work and collaborate with”.
Since inception, Femme Type has done the work to make this happen, Weaver says, by getting “some of the great designers we’ve found in front of commissioning eyes” and thereby opening doors.
And this is largely where Weaver hopes the legacy of this first year of Femme Type lies: “[Hopefully], people are more aware of all the other talented type designers and type-focused creatives out there and are more inspired and educated on where to find them and how to reach them.” (On whether the wider industry has been changed quite enough yet, she adds: “Ask me again in a year’s time.”)
Looking to the past and future
There are, she says, two highlights of the last twelve months. The first was when Femme Type was given the opportunity to collaborate with British style magazine LOVE.
“We revamped the magazine’s selection of typefaces by choosing modern ones from our network and curating a list of suitable text and display typefaces,” says Weaver.
The second, and more recent, highlight was Femme Type’s featuring in the 56th issue of Posterzine™, a project put together by People of Print, in partnership with Foil&Co. Rather than the standard interview format used in previous issues, she explains herself and the team put together “a list of 50 type-focused creatives from our network to continue our mission of improving recognition”.
As the organisation looks forward to it’s second year, the landscape is, understandably, uncertain.
“There are many things we’d love to do, but with COVID-19 still looming, we’re very restricted with what we can do,” she says.
Nevertheless, Weaver says there’s plenty in the pipeline that will, eventually, come to fruition.
To find out more about Femme Type, future events and projects or to read their interviews with women in the industry, head to their website.