Unapologetically surprising, Marion Bisserier’s typeface tackles female representation in type
Inspired by her time at Pentagram and A Practice For Everyday Life, Marion explores the power of femininity in a male-dominated industry.
- Hassan Sharif
- 10 February 2020
Within her loud-mouthed and exaggerated typeface, Good Girl Type, Marion Bisserier designs what she describes as a “reaction to the lack of female representation in the type design industry.” Purposefully engulfing negative space, the typeface is designed in protest of the “immaculate macho-modernist design” she felt was “portrayed in western design education.”
A French-born designer, Marion’s typography journey began while she was studying at the London College of Communication, and continued through industry placements. Having worked with the multi-faceted designer Marina Willer and her team at Pentagram, Marion explains that her relationship with type is now “very tangible”. Similarly surrounding herself with strong female talent at A Practice for Everyday Life – founded by Kirsty Carter and Emma Thomas – it was this exposure which inspired a greater sense of confidence in Marion, despite being in an industry she views as male-dominated.
The designer’s initial practice grew from her contact with the letterpress department at her university, and learning to navigate its “several physical limitations.” Marion explains that “you can't just pick any typeface you wish at any desired point size,” and what was most challenging was how “you have to work out how your design is going to fit on the press”. Steering through such restricting parameters, the designer recognised that it was “within a set of rules that she became most creative.” The art of type design was beginning to transform into playful problem solving with Marion at its helm.
The designer now reflects that it was her initial lack of confidence which created an opportunity to explore her position as a woman in the type industry. “Not quite daring to take the step further,” Marion began to utilise her “intimidation and fear of failure,” and express it through her design work. The designer observed “that although there is an equal number of women and men working in type design,” she protests that “there isn't enough public credit given to women in type.”
Marion tells us that her wider creative process is also of the investigative kind; “usually a mixture of reading and just talking to people,” and never keeping her thoughts to herself. The designer explains that when tackling gender representation, she couldn't “assume that everyone’s experience was going to be the same. Purposely avoiding “caricature or oversimplification of the issue,” Marion was passionate about not “drawing another ‘feminine’ typeface” – because what does that mean, anyway?
To demonstrate the lack of female representation in the industry, Marion began to develop a spatial approach, manifesting from this “lack of visibility and representation”. Following this, questions began to emerge in the designer’s work, such as, if such social complexity could be emulated within the constraints of typographical “weight, size and style.”
Through experimentation, Marion calculated “that reducing the negative space of a letter as much as possible,” would create the most visual “saturation on the page.” Additionally exaggerating the “feeling of clutter” Marion developed three variations of condensed type, all with “the general rule of a twenty-unit negative space.”
The designer was also entranced by the idea of type behaving like stereotypes. For instance, when “you look at a letterform in a typeface like the lowercase ‘n’,” a designer instinctively expects “the ‘h’ or ‘u’ to behave in a similar fashion.” Just as Marion was exploring constructs of gender in design she connected both stereotypes, which would later create the provocative foundations of her typeface.
As a result, Marion’s type design is unapologetically surprising. While many of the letters fit in with the neighbouring forms, every now and then the viewer gets to endure a jarring letter ‘m’, or ‘g’. It's as if Marion's design choices portray the letters as oozing a self-confidence which defies type norms.
Within Good Girl Type’s specimen, Marion plays “with derogatory terms used to describe women created this sort of tension” such as “basic bitch”, “bimbo” and “babe”. As a female typographer, Marion explains that there “was a certain sense of empowerment” for her by “taking ownership of these words.” “I hope that people enjoy its loud and unapologetic nature,” Marion continues, pointing how the fun behind the typeface could also be utilised “to create fun layouts.”
Marion's final type design is not your regular idea of feminine representation. No curls and swirls beautifully choreographed across the page, but rather a typeface which “purposely occupies as much positive space as possible,” a visual eyesore failing to go unnoticed. Innocently titled, Good Girl Type is anything but.
GalleryMarion Bisserier: Good Girl Type
About the Author
Hassan joined the It’s Nice That team as part of The HudsonBec Group's Thrive Placement in February 2020. After graduating in architecture from Newcastle University, he is excited to expand his creative skillset working within the editorial, creative and project management teams across the company.