Call for mentors

The Alphabettes Mentorship program has been so successful that we are overwhelmed by the many mentee applications. This is great, but also means that we need to stop accepting new applications for the moment, until we have processed the open requests.

We are actually actively looking for new mentors. Over 100 mentees need YOU! Please consider sharing your experience with this wonderful and enriching community.

Simply fill in this form

Thank you
Alphabettes Mentorship Team

Book Review: Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography

I pre-ordered Natural Enemies of Books: A Messy History of Women in Printing and Typography immediately when I stumbled upon on the ‘forthcoming titles’ page of publisher Occasional Papers’s website. I knew the the title was a reference to an essay in a book designed and printed by a number of women in 1937—Bookmaking on the Distaff Side. I had recently learned about it in my own research and had only just succeeded in getting my hands on a copy from the edition of 100 after many dead ends. Thank you, interlibrary loan, and thank you, UC Berkeley!

Bookmaking on the Distaff Side was a unique piece of collective work in which women printers were invited by a committee to submit signatures they’d printed to be bound into an edition, which contributor, Kathleen Walkup, refers to as a pot-luck format. This means each submission is printed on unique paper, with varied colors, type, and illustration styles. It’s diminutive size and deckled edges with unique papers (and colors) make it such a treat to hold and leaf through. Content focuses generally on printing and typography, whether it be type theory, history of women and printing, or humorous piss-takes about the famous typographic men of that era. Perhaps my own greatest surprise in reading the book was the shade thrown at male printers and typographers. Though it is often tempered with some clarifying diplomatic statement, it’s clear the women who put this volume together had opinions and knew humor was a clever way to couch their critical opinions.

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Resources

‘Do you have at hand a list of women type designers?’ ‘can you give me a list of typefaces designed by women?’ ‘Is there a bibliography about works related to women in type?’ We all have received this kind of questions at one point or another, but here in Alphabettes we didn’t have a page or a blog entry listing this kind of material. This is an un-organised list of resources all related to women in type that anyone can use. Continue reading

24-hour Hangout for International Women’s Day 2020

If you happen to google “24 hour google hangout”, you’ll end up right here. (Well, not quite right here, but right here.) Last year around now, we had this collectively zany idea to host a global 24-hour hangout to celebrate International Women’s Day and well, it actually went pretty great. That’s why we’re doing it again! Mark your calendars, set your alarm clocks, pour yourself a nice cup of coffee / tea / wine / beer (depending on your timezone) and join us once again this Sunday, March 8 for our 24-hour Hangout for International Women’s Day 2020!
What will we talk about? Whose cat will walk across their keyboard? What’s on Amy’s desktop now? Does 2am even exist on the first morning of Daylight Saving Time? Let’s find out!

From 12am (0:00) EST to 11:59pm (23:59) EST on March 8, join the hangout for conversation on type, the universe, whatever!

>> ̶H̶̶̶e̶̶̶r̶̶̶e̶̶̶’̶̶̶s̶̶̶ ̶̶̶t̶̶̶h̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶̶̶l̶̶̶i̶̶̶n̶̶̶k̶̶̶ ̶̶̶t̶̶̶o̶̶̶ ̶̶̶t̶̶̶h̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶̶̶l̶̶̶i̶̶̶v̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶̶̶H̶̶̶a̶̶̶n̶̶̶g̶̶̶o̶̶̶u̶̶̶t̶̶̶ ALL Done! Thanks for Joining Us!<<

All are welcome* when you can and leave when you need. Video is possible but just audio is fine, too. Keep an eye on this spot and Twitter for the link or any updates and help us spread the word! WOMEN = FUN.

* Participants must follow our code of conduct.

WOMEN = FUN

The Malee Scholarship: Interview with Chantra Malee Montoya-Pimolwatana

screenshot of malee scholarship homepage

The Malee Scholarship awards $6000 USD annually to a woman of color ages 16 and over. The deadline for the first application is April 15, 2020. We asked Chantra Malee Montoya-Pimolwatana, co-founder of Sharp Type and namesake of the scholarship, a few questions about how the idea started, the site’s beautiful branding, and the application process.

When did you realize the scholarship was necessary to help address the lack of representation of women of color in type design?
I grew up in a small New England town that was heavily rooted in the Anglo-American tradition and culture. I was part of a small percentage of people of color there, and I often felt isolated. I’ve taken that experience with me everywhere in my personal and professional life. When I first got into the type business, it was not much different than other industries I had worked in, primarily represented by a single demographic. But this time I was in a position to make a difference.

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Exhibition Review: Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work

Nestled behind a Romanesque-inspired Methodist Church on 59th St and Park Avenue, entering the Grolier Club conjures a spiritual experience. A private club for the most esteemed bibliophiles, many public exhibitions and lectures are offered in their first and second floor galleries. One day, you might even be granted access to the heavenly third floor, aka the Holy Grail of All Things Bookish: the Grolier Club Library (ok, ok, all you really have to do is ask).

exhibition space with large screen with main exhibition graphic on a large digital screen

Main exhibition hall at the Grolier Club / my preferred house of worship.

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One Press Many Hands:
APHA Conference Notes

Not long ago, I had a revelation:

The American Printing History Association (APHA) 2019 conference, “One Press Many Hands: Diversity in the History of American Printing”, held at the University of Maryland, College Park last weekend, proved this theory correct. Just to be clear, I love all sorts of nerds, and identify with many nerd cultures: type nerds, tech nerds, type tech nerds, you get where this is going. But there is something about printing history that’s uniquely wonderful. Any of these nerd groups could show up at the APHA conference, enjoy talks related to their own flavor of nerdy, and learn about a tangentially-related topic. The Venn diagram of printing history includes almost all of the nerd circles I love and why I felt so warmly welcomed, despite butchering the pronunciation of APHA during my talk. (For those not in the know, it’s “AHH-FAH” not “A P H A” 🤦‍♀️ and no one even publicly flogged me for it. AIGA? TDC? It was a reasonable guess!)

cover of conference program features a historical image of a young African American man working at a press

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Mentorship update: June 29, 2019

For the past three months we have been making progress behind the scenes of our new and improved mentorship programme.

This is taking some time because sorting out our online privacy policy is more complicated than we anticipated. We want to make sure we are respecting your personal information. Our legal team is on it and we will be ready to go soon!

The Alphabettes mentorship program team

Conferences 2018

We’re a few months into 2019, but it’s never too late to look at how women were represented at conferences last year. Especially since there were a couple of standout events.

We salute those type conference organizers who decided to use their 2018 chapter as an opportunity to improve their speakers lists towards gender equality and elevate women’s voices. We can’t wait to see this dedication continue to inspire others.

In order of percentage of female speakers:

100% Ladies, Wine & Design Berlin Conference, DE – Berlin
85% Women in Print, UK – Birmingham
73% Tipografía México, MX – Monterrey
71% Script, print, and letterforms in global contexts: the visual and the material, UK – Birmingham
61% (+38.89%) DiaTipo, BR – São Paulo
50% (0%) Typographics, US – New York City
49% [.01% gender fluid] (+6.06%) TypeCon, US – Portland, OR

44% Ampersand, UK – Brighton
41% (+4.5%) ATypI, BE – Antwerp
39% (+5.10%) Typo Berlin, DE – Berlin
36% Dynamic Font Day, DE – Munich
31% EDCH, DE – Munich
30% Type Drives Culture, US – New York City
28% (-5.56%) BITS, TH – Bangkok
27% Typofest, BU – Sofia & Plovdiv
26% (+16.31%) Typo Labs, DE – Berlin
25% (+12.5%) Kerning, IT – Faenza
25% (+25%) Robothon, DL – The Hague
24% Fontstand Conference, HR – Zagreb
8% All Eyes On Type, NL – Rotterdam

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Freda Sack (1951–2019)

Portrait of Freda Sack

Freda Sack. Photo: Jason Wen

Freda Sack was a type designer and typographer who took an important lead in shaping the professional craft of type design and, through her work with the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD), helped to improve standards and to enhance educational opportunities in the field of typography. For anyone who did not meet her in person, you will almost certainly have met her typefaces, not least through the role her work played in giving typographical shape to the commercial landscapes of the UK and beyond.

A love of letterforms acquired during Freda’s time at Maidstone College of Art led her to an interview with Mike Daines, manager of the type studio at Letraset. He remembers, ‘a shy 21 year old, partly hidden by a long fringe’ who wanted to work on typefaces, but first had to gain union membership by starting as a photographic retoucher. An enduring character trait of Freda was her fiercely quiet determination and so she spent several months retouching, or as she puts it, ‘ruining her eyesight’ after which she was finally able to graduate into her five-year ‘apprenticeship’ into type design and stencil cutting.

Her freehand stencil-cutting skills and accuracy for interpretation are the stuff of industry legend. As her former colleague David Quay recalls, she had the remarkable ability to look at any letter or alphabet and say immediately what was, ‘badly drawn or too heavy, too wide or narrow within half a gnat’s whisker! An uncanny skill I have never seen in another type designer.’ For Freda, however, it wasn’t just about sharpness of eye. As she put it, ‘That would only mean I might be able to see something was wrong, but wouldn’t necessarily know how to make it right. What is important is to have the understanding of the structure and proportions of the letterforms, and the ability to know when a curve or a shape is ‘wrong’, and what is needed to correct it. This, I believe, is a direct result of an innate relationship with letterforms gained from analysis and then the physical process of creating them (hand/eye/brain). The ‘right’ shapes become learned in the process. I think that’s why I tend to still hold a pencil when art directing, or even just talking about type – the tactile memory is important.’

As her reputation and portfolio of designs grew so did her opportunities and international standing. A position from 1978–80 with Adrian Williams at FONTS/Hardy Williams Design added to her repertoire a series of text faces for the German foundries Stempel and Berthold, and also Linotype, in addition to corporate commissions for the British Post Office and Renault. Returning to Letraset in 1980, though this time working from their London studio, she was involved in the development of a range of new digital types and in the development of the Ikarus digital design software, travelling to Hamburg to work at URW with the developers to help make the systems more visually intuitive and user-friendly for type designers.

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