The Daily Heller: Hispanic Women and Their Typographic Legacy

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Celebrating the histories and cultures of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, ArtCenter College of Design’s Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) has produced an exemplary introduction to the rarely examined heritage of Hispanic women of typography. 

Mujeres Hispanas y Tipografía documents the six-week-long Typographer-in-Residence program hosted by the Hoffmitz Milken Center in 2020. It focuses long overdue attention on the talent and contribution of five Hispanic women designers, researchers and educators to the field of graphic design and typography, reflecting on the influences of their individual cultures and histories. The subjects are Sandra García and Dafne Martínez (Colombia and Mexico), Laura Meseguer (Spain), Marina Garone Gravier (Argentina/Mexico), and Jimena Gamio (Peru/Los Angeles).

The impressively produced folio, comprised of four (26 cm x 38 cm) booklets in a split fountain color jacket, shows a high level of craft that pervades the entire project (click here to order a set).

Lavinia Lascaris and Ximena Amaya were chiefly responsible as producers/editors. HMCT is led by Executive Director Gloria Kondrup and Creative Director Simon Johnston. “Trusting our talent and abilities, they gave us free rein to develop our concepts,” Lascaris and Amaya note.

I asked them to explain the story behind the stories.

Tell me a little about your backgrounds and how you were involved in the project.
I’m originally from Greece, and have lived in Athens, London, Paris, Pondicherry and Barcelona, working as a designer and artist for museums and galleries. I joined the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography in 2018 as their exhibition and graphic designer after completing my MFA in graphic design at ArtCenter, and serving as the HMCT Typography Fellow.

Amaya: I’m a graphic designer from Mexico City based in LA. I started my journey in design at Centro University in Mexico City, where I studied visual communication and developed a fascination for street typography and signs. Since receiving my BFA in graphic design from ArtCenter in 2022, I have also been serving as an HMCT Typography Fellow.

How did Mujeres Hispanas y Tipografía come about?
 Each year, the HMCT hosts a Typographer-in-Residence program offering the opportunity to further investigate the importance and relevance of language and typography in the participant’s professional practice or personal research. Following the residency, we produce a catalog that documents their research, design and investigations. In 2020, the COVID-19 protocols forced us to host the residency program remotely. This allowed us to expand it to include more than one resident. Mujeres Hispanas y Tipografía is the documentation of the 2020 Typographer-in-Residence program.

What factors determined your selection of the legacy/historical and contemporary work and designers?
LL/XA: HMCT is committed to promoting and supporting diversity through our programming. We wanted to pay homage to the influential Hispanic culture of Los Angeles. Additionally, women have historically been underrepresented in the field of typography, and since our previous two typography residents were men, we wanted our next to be a woman. We reached out to several Hispanic women designers, educators and artists whose work we were familiar with, keeping in mind that we were looking for diversity of work, as well as areas of interest. The editors, translators, proofreaders, academic researchers, image researcher and production coordinator were all women.

Were other lost or forgotten Mujeres Hispanas considered?
LL/XA: Of course, this is just a small representation of the contribution of Hispanic women to the field of typography and graphic design. There are many Hispanic designers, both women and men, that need recognition. We are proud of our efforts in giving them a well-deserved and long-overdue platform.

The catalog is an impressive document. How was it designed and organized? Was there a curator/editor for each of the four?
By creating four separate booklets, we highlighted the work of each participant as an independent investigation. The format of the publication underscores the individuality of the four projects and the individual voices that have come together to illustrate the influence of Hispanic women in the arena of typography. The large-scale format of the publication—unconventional and bold—represents women fearlessly taking up space and having their voices heard within the design and typography community.

Overall, have the subjects had a role in the project?
 We worked closely with all of the women to ensure accurate translations and clear and thoughtful sequencing of their process. Our typographic and design choices for the catalog were made with the intent to support their work as well as to create an exciting vehicle to experience the content. All of the residents were afforded the chance to review our designs before they were finalized. We worked with a local printing rep, also a woman, and local printing companies owned and operated by women.

What did you learn that surprised and inspired you that was unknown before entering into this project?
 Each project was enlightening and unique. Laura Meseguer’s fusion of calligraphy and stencil type was an exciting and playful approach to type design that involved deep knowledge of historical calligraphy and a curiosity to challenge its potential from a modern point of view. Marina Garone’s essay about Carolina Amor de Fournier tells the personal and professional story of an inspiring woman who dedicated her life to publishing books when the industry was predominately male-dominated. Sandra García and Dafne Martínez demonstrated that typography could influence how effectively children are taught to read. And finally, Jimena Gamio recontextualizes Quechua within contemporary spoken Spanish in Peru. All of these projects target tangible topics and offer perspectives on their respective fields that we found profoundly inspiring and that demonstrate the importance, possibilities and potential of typography.

What has been the response to this material?
 The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are responding to the content as well as the design. It is our goal to share this important publication produced entirely by women with as many as possible, and thank you for the opportunity to do so.