Criticism against the Monotype TDO

As the great majority of the women who worked in the TDO were expected to leave the company upon getting married, they were not encouraged to develop their skills. According to Patricia Saunders (née Mullett) who joined the TDO in 1951 aged 18, women ‘were not encouraged to know names or history of founts; it was all [series] numbers’. Their contribution was at best overlooked, and sometimes harshly criticised. In 1931, Eric Gill voiced his concerns about the TDO’s ability to interpret his artwork: 

It is difficult enough for the designer to draw a letter ten or twenty times as large as the actual type will be and at the same time in right proportion; it requires very great experience and understanding. It is quite impossible for a set of more or less tame employees, even if the local art school has done its poor best for them, to know what a letter enlarged a hundred times will look like when reduced to the size of intended type.

Eric Gill, An essay on typography, fifth edn, originally published 1931, Lund Humphries, London, 1988, p. 79.

Gill’s disdain for TDO employees is obvious from the words he chose to describe them. One can understand why Gill, a skilled artist and craftsman, would have been frustrated to see his artwork adapted to the constraints of the Monotype system by TDO staff, who would not have necessarily picked up the subtleties of his drawings. However, given Gill’s known thoughts on women’s work and education, there is little doubt that the predominance of young women within the Department tainted his view of the work being carried out.