Rediscovering women’s contribution to type history

Typeface design plays a fundamental role in visual communication: it is crucial to the textual representation of languages and to provide voices for diverse communities.

Yet design histories have largely overlooked the activities of those who contributed to the production of typefaces throughout the industrial era. It is frequently assumed that typefaces are the work of a single designer whereas, as most industrial objects, they result from a series of processes involving multiple skills often carried out by numerous people.

A Monotype employee working in the Matrix Factory, undated photograph. Courtesy Richard Cooper.An employee of International Photon Corporation in Paris, FR, working on an Arabic typeface for phototypesetting, ca. 1976. Courtesy Musée de l’imprimerie & de la communication graphique. Monotype employees working in the punchcutting room, undated photograph. Courtesy Richard Cooper.View of the drawing studio of the Simoncini Type Foundry in Bologna, Italy, in the early 1960s. Courtesy Antonio CavedoniLinotype studio for typographic developments in the early 1980s. From left to right: Georgina Surman, Lesley Sewell, Sarah Morley, Gillian Robertson, Ros Coates, Fiona Ross, and Donna Yandle. Courtesy Fiona Ross.The punchcutting room of the Monotype Works, Salfords, Surrey (UK), probably 1928. © Monotype archives.

Type-manufacturers employed women as part of departments that were variously known as ‘drawing studios’, ‘type drawing offices’, or ‘departments of typographic development’. These women worked daily on developing and producing typefaces that were, eventually, almost always attributed to male designers. They merit attention as key contributors to the design process of many renowned typefaces that emerged throughout the twentieth century.

Women in Type is a research project highlighting the work of these women. It focuses on their roles and responsibilities between 1910 and 1990 within two major British companies: the Monotype Corporation and Linotype Limited (formerly Linotype-Paul Ltd and Linotype-Hell Ltd).

Explore

Reading List

Colophon

Women in Type is a three-year research project undertaken at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication of the University of Reading between March 2018–November 2021. The project benefited from the support of the Leverhulme Trust as part of its Research Project Grants. The project is led by Prof. Fiona Ross with principal researcher Dr. Alice Savoie and post-doctoral assistant Dr. Helena Lekka.

This website was conceived by Alice Savoie (content and project management) and Mathieu Triay (design and code) as an accessible and interactive tool to share the project’s findings with the wider public. Please note that the resources shared on this platform are protected by copyright. You are not authorized to redistribute, reproduce, republish, store in any medium, re-transmit, modify or make public for commercial use of the information without the written authorization of the authors and copyright holders.

Credits

The images presented on the website are taken from the following collections:

Thanks

Our team would like to thank:

  • Monotype, St Bride Library, The Type Archive, the Musée de l’Imprimerie & de la Communication Graphique for enabling us to access archival material and for allowing us to reproduce the documents shown on this website;
  • former Monotype and Linotype employees Duncan Avery, Ros Coates, Richard Cooper, Mandy Cook, Mike Duggan, Mike Fellows, Borna Izadpanah, Sue Lightfoot, Maureen Mitchell, Robin Nicholas, Ann Pillar, Kumar Parminder Rajput, Patricia & David Saunders, Graham Sheppard, Georgina Surman, and Valerie Wise for taking the time to share their memories with our team;
  • Laura Bennetto, Antonio Cavedoni, Deb Gonet, Paul Luna, Sallie Morris, Toshi Omagari, Elena Papassissa, Isabel Stoole, Mathieu Triay, Ferdinand Ulrich, Dan Wood, as well as all staff from the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading for their kind help and support at various stages of our research.

Contact

If you have any question or would like to contribute to our research, feel free to contact us at womenintype@gmail.com. If you have worked in a Type Drawing Office or happen to know anyone who has, we would love to hear from you!

For further information on the Women in Type research project, you can visit our blog.

University of Reading logoLeverhulme Trust logo