How many female type designers do you know? Yulia Popova’s poses this question in her new book
After discovering the lack of equality in the field of type design, the graphic designer and researcher responded with a publication that dives deep into the topic.
- Ayla Angelos
- 1 December 2020
How many female type designers do you know? This is exactly the question posed by graphic designer and researcher Yulia Popova. If you’re finding it hard to answer this question, or maybe you aren’t – then you’ll understand Yulia’s frustration when realising the lack of research on the topic, let alone the lack of women in the field of design and typography.
Yulia’s interest in this field arrived naturally. The Moscow-born designer studied Product Design at the British Higher School of Art and Design, which led to several years’ experience in the industry. Deciding to continue her education, Yulia went to Germany and studied at Cologne International School of Design (KISD), during which she was granted an exchange year at Parsons, The New School, before doing a further semester in Shanghai. Well-versed in her industry and evidently well travelled, surprisingly it doesn’t quite stop there; she was also part of a nine-month residency programme at Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, and she also received an MA in Visual Communication in Art Academy in Weißensee, Germany.
Throughout the entirety of her lengthy education, Yulia was nurturing a profound interest in design, particularly typography and gender – a combination that would soon inform her practice in the years to come. She recalls a specific moment when her interest was piqued, in one of design expert and theoretician Uta Brandes' lectures on gender and design. “I learned about gender in terms of social construction and included gender in the design process, both in theory and in practice,” she tells It’s Nice That.
“Most of the literature I was reading on typography had mostly male type designers,” she continues. “It never bothered me before; I think this is just how things were in the past.” Soon enough she decided to dive further into the topic, an idea spurred on after attending the Typo Berlin conference in 2017. “I could not help but notice that the percentage of female speakers at the conference was under 30 per cent. This looked like a paradox to me and I decided to dig into this issue.”
Nose deep in research, she describes the process as a “long” and “unforgettable” one. The more she read, the more she learnt about the gruelling lack of equality within the industry, with the only book she’d come across being Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012 by Gerga Breuer and Julia Meer. As a result, these concerns grew into her own series of interviews and research topics – and that’s when How many female type designers do you know? was borne.
The publication comprises biographies of significant designers, 14 interviews with women currently working in type design and a thorough index of typefaces design by women. Above all, though, it aims to shine a light on the women who are indeed working in type – breaking down the traditional and unequal barriers found within the industry. “It should serve as an alternative educational material for people interested in type history,” she adds, encouraging her readers to pick up a copy and divulge in a re-written history.
Additionally, the first part of the book offers up Yulia’s own research on gender issues in relation to type design, including stats, data and relevant works, while the latter features the interviews and firsthand experiences of working in the industry. “These interviews intend to uncover the topic of inequality with female and male speakers at type conferences, as well as the lack of women in the industry,” she notes. “The purpose of this part is to show the great amount of broad variety of such typefaces.”
Yulia’s main accomplishment with this project is that she has, indeed, successfully given a platform – and a voice – to the women that have previously been left out of the history of type. Notably, it’s a complex issue and this is just a small step towards greater equality in the field. But How many female type designers do you know? is a welcomed approach, destroying gender stereotypes and eliminating them from pre-judgement and, in her words, “only designing beautiful and cute scripts – it is simply not true”.
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.