First/early female typeface designers

Every other month the question about who was the first female typeface designer comes up. From my armchair research, for up to the 1950s, so far we know of

  • Hildegard Henning, Belladonna, Julius Klinkhardt, 1912
  • Elizabeth Colwell, Colwell Handletter, ATF, 1916
  • Maria Ballé, Ballé Initials, Bauersche Gießerei, date unknown, 1920s?
  • Elizabeth Friedländer*, Elizabeth, Bauer, ±1937
  • Ilse Schüle, Rhapsodie, Ludwig & Mayer, 1951
  • Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, Diotima, Stempel AG, 1952–54 (Ariadne ’53, Smaragd ’54 …)
  • Anna Maria Schildbach, Montan, Stempel AG, 1954
  • (That is women credited with a typeface’s design. Many have worked in drawing offices and type production but remained unknown. And post-metal type design is another blog post.)

    I have been talking a lot about this with Dan Reynolds, who is researching 19th century type making in Germany for his Phd (this is such a brief generalization of his topic that he will probably kill me). After the war, West German type foundries published a couple of typefaces designed by women, but of pre-war typefaces Dan could so far not find more than the two mentioned above — Belladonna and the Elizabeth types. (It’s debatable whether the Ballé initials count since they were “not actually cast as foundry type, but rather electrotypes mounted on metal”, as some sources state.) While the idea that Anna Simons might have designed some of the Bremer Presse types is intriguing, it seems that this was just a 1980s American speculation, not actually a fact.

    Last weekend, Dan visited the printing museum im Leipzig and writes:
    “I finally made it to the exhibition from Jerusalem, which exhibited work from Moshe Spitzer, Franziska Baruch, and Henri Friedlaender. That exhibition included Stam, a Hebrew typeface designed by Franziska Baruch for Berthold in the 1920s. Baruch left Germany for Palestine and died in Israel in 1989. She had a career as a designer in Germany in the 1920s and ’30s, and then in Palestine and Israel after that. Much of her graphic design for the State of Israel and for her Israeli clients was significant; however, she never wrote about her work.

    While it was not mentioned in the exhibition, I suspect that Baruch was commissioned to design Stam by Oscar Jolles, who was Berthold’s director in the 1920s. Jolles was a prominent figure in the Berlin Jewish community, and Berthold’s publication of Hebrew type specimen took place during his tenure. Jolles died in 1929, but like Baruch’s mother and sister, his wife and daughter were all murdered in 1943, albeit in different death camps.”

    I believe Liron worked on this exhibition and its original catalog? Does any of you type history or Hebrew researchers have more info on Franziska Baruch and her typeface Stam? I had never heard of her. Glad we can add another name to our Olden Type list.

    * There is a documentary about Elizabeth Friedlander that just came out and will be shown in London on October 20. If you are in the area, this is worth watching.
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    Cold type vs. hot typesetters

    I learned about the term ‘cold type’ quite late into my fascination with phototypesetting. And when I did it was straight from its biggest critic, Frank Romano, author of a book with the title

    The term had been popular in English (only) in the 1960s and ’70s amid the changes from the then prevailing mechanical ‘hot’ metal typesetting, like Linotype or Monotype, that involved live typecasting, to ‘cold’ photographic systems and computer-based typesetting. But my qualms are more about what cold refers to in relation to hot here.

    In the common sense it means typesetting without the casting of metal. Now that all composition and design is done with cool digital tools, we hardly ever have to differentiate between this anymore. What I would love to make clearer though and distinguish between is the difference between foundry type and hot metal typesetting. Especially non-native English speakers tend to throw all metal type into the hot metal melting pot, but nein:
    Foundry type is traditional metal type of individual sorts (letters) for hand composition, once cast by a type foundry but usually used cold, then taken apart again and reused.
    Hot metal type refers to typesetting machines that involve a casting unit that compose and cast individual sorts or a line of type on the fly, e. g. Linotype, Intertype, Monotype or Ludlow systems; hot to luke warm when handled right after casting and molten down again after use.
    It gets real balmy though now that most metal type used in letterpress print shops these days is actually cold ex-hot-metal Monotype for hand composition.

    So maybe we should not use the thermal terms at all and be more specific in what we mean. Or at least only use hot metal for the mechanical typesetting systems. Or only when we’re referring to genuinely hot typesetters.*
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    Caster Masters

    I recently attended the American Typecasting Fellowship conference in the finger lakes region in upstate New York. If you think this is something that mainly attracts men over 70 you are completely right. Nevertheless, the number of women in attendance who are active in type casting more than doubled this year (~3) compared to 2014.

    I’m very glad I got to know the awesome Jessie Reich for instance. She recently graduated from Wells College’s great book arts program and now works at the Bixler Letterfoundry in Skaneateles, NY, once a week running the Monotype Super Caster as well as her own letterpress and design practice Punky Press Studio.

    Jessie Reich and Richard Kegler, co-organizers of the event.

    Jessie Reich and Richard Kegler, co-organizers of the event

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    Alphabettes News February–June (yeah, sorry)

    July! That means half of 2016 is already over! Gotta catch up with the news (we’ll thank us in a couple of years). So what happened since the last round-up …

    February: We published our Love Letter Series

    Feb 2: Diana Ovezea released her type series Equitan Sans and Slab with ITF

    Feb 16: The exhibition “A+: 100 years of graphic communication by women at Central Saint Martins” opened in London, organized by Ruth Sykes

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    Alphabettes go Typographics

    Typographics
     
    Next week, the whole (type) world will look and travel to New York City for the incredible Typographics festival. I thought TypoBerlin this year would be impossible to top regarding number of Alphabettes in attendance and in town. But given that no less than ~21 ’bettes are living in NYC*, plus us global trotters who are visiting from abroad, next week’s event will probably be the record breaking meeting of our little club to date.

    The organizers Cara di Edwardo, Alexander Tochilovsky and Roger Black did a really great job at putting together an interesting diverse line up (the first 50/50 female/male speakers event I know of!). Elizabeth, Nina, Marta, Fiona, Victoria, and I are speaking, Tânia is giving a workshop, Sara can be visited on a studio tour, and at the free Type Lab Isabel is doing a demo, and Amy and Bianca are organizing the Alphabettes Variety Show on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for details about that. If you are unable to join us at the lab, you may be in luck …

    Check our Twitter and Instagram feeds for live reportage and other nonsense. And if you don’t have a ticket yet and are anywhere close to York Neue, this is your chance to see us in person, so register already. Or for the free Type Lab days. (Oops, I see the two events mentioned above are the only women on the Type Lab program. Girls, get out there!)

     
     
    * Here is a map of us all I put together back in March for no reason; not totally up to date but giving a rough overview (pins are not showing actual location! No, Lynne is not actually living on the East River.)

    Please, no more Open Sans for a while

    If you are also tired of seeing the ever same fonts and style on the web, and the rich typefaces getting richer, here is a running shortlist of potential body copy typefaces for alphabettes.org I once compiled. I did not test how they look in extended text yet, nor rendering across platforms/browsers. That would be the next step (and we’re also still quite happy with Elido although see that we could use more extensive language support). But maybe you are looking for a fresh, lesser seen typeface and want to check some out anyway. Trying on new clothes is luckily quite easy if you have a website up already, e. g. with tools/bookmarklets that swap out the fonts you currently use, like Webtype’s Font Swapper or FontShop’s Webfonter. Also, most of the typefaces below are available on Fontstand or as trial versions from the foundries, so you can test them locally or in mockups. Let us know if you end up using any at some point.

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    Elido by Sibylle Hagmann

    … and a bit about type on the web in general.

    It’s long overdue that we introduce you to Elido more. I won’t even need that many specimen images because it’s the typeface you are reading right now. When we were discussing the fonts for the Alphabettes blog, we were after something that looks appropriate for very diverse content that we didn’t have yet — potentially long or maybe short, serious, delightful, angry or funny — and that is comfortable to read and rendering well on the web. All demands that many editorial sites share.

    elido_specimen

    Elido specimen images by Sibylle Hagmann

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    Our Favourite Typefaces of 1915

    It’s been an exciting year in type; one that saw many technical innovations, company mergers and restructuring, as well as some delightful new font releases which we will surely encounter in printed matter around the world soon.

    But let’s start with the biggest loss for our industry in 1915: Georges Peignot, type founder in Paris and one of our greatest type designers — of Grasset, Auriol, or Cochin to name a few — died in battle, only 43 years old. Curious to see how long the foundry will be able to remain independent without its head :/ Another substantial loss was the death of Wilhelm Woellmer’s CEO Siegmund Borchardt. His son Fritz (34) suceeded him at the Berlin foundry.

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