Ever wonder who originally designed your favorite typefaces? Many of the fonts we use today (such as Futura, Helvetica, Baskerville) originated in the metal type era (late 1800s to 1950s) when hot metal typesetting became the norm for printing, revolutionizing what had been a mostly manual process for centuries. Much of today’s typographic design relies on norms from this period when Linotype and Monotype dominated. Yet, with few exceptions, women’s contributions in the metal type era have mostly been erased or ignored.
For this Salon, Bethany Qualls takes us on a deep dive into these often-overlooked women and their contributions to type history. Even though others have researched early women type designers, no single, publicly accessible resource exists to synthesize all of what we do know. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at her role as a Mellon Public Scholar in creating Letterform’s forthcoming finding aid and research hub which aims to fill this gap. Highlights will include examples of type specimens from the LA collection, what’s been left out of most English language resources thus far, tips on how to research in languages you don’t speak written in alphabets you can’t read, and the project’s future phases.