Art Director and Web Designer Beatrice Caciotti recently created a project to study gender stereotypes concerning typography. The project beautifully interprets typography as a means of investigating the topic and how difficult it is for an individual to ignore the outer influences from society, primarily through a visual and graphical lens. As perplexing as it is, we are constantly being inundated by outside forces, and typography plays a significant role, whether we realize it or not.
The project is a study on the impact of gender stereotypes in the realm of visual design, specifically typography.
Is there a correlation between gender stereotypes and typography? The research aimed at answering this question through aspects of sociology, history and neuroscience, and later focused on visual design. It was clear from the beginning that this topic has not yet been researched thoroughly; in fact very few articles were found in Italian, only in English.
It was however obvious that the simplification and repetition of certain contents (i.e. how stereotypes are generated) affects typography and visual design.
Many articles on the internet, in regarding the targeting of users, define typefaces using gendered adjectives and ideas, for example suggesting how decorative, fancy typefaces should be considered feminine. This research was focused on showing how this association is based on the common stereotype that women are more frivolous than men.
The approach was intended as neutral, acknowledging stereotypes as something inherently bad for everyone; the main goal was to shed light on the issue, as Gender Studies suggest doing.
The experimental research utilized the means of typography as a way to investigate the topic in an alternative approach and at the same time to highlight sociology and neuroscience studies encountered during the preliminary phase.
The typographic project grew out of the impossibility of the individual to be unaffected by the persistence of stereotypes in society: considering a parallelism between typography and society the letter becomes a metaphor for the individual inside the complex surrounding system.
These limiting aspects of society translated in the decision of designing a very condensed typeface that expresses immediately a sense of outer pressure, as the individual is subject to various pressures, expectations and influences from the outside world; anyone can decide, knowingly or not, to homologate themselves to these patterns or to choose a different path.
The choice to design a variable font was in contrast to the discriminatory limitations of gender binary: a series of typefaces that oscillate between two extremes. These two extremes express two opposite relationships with their outer cages: one adhering statically and totally to the surrounding walls, and the other creating unexpected and unconventional shapes. Similarly people can either decide to conform to the society’s expectations (and to what degree) or not, regardless of gender.
From a technical point of view the interpolation was possible thanks to the compatibility between the two masters, which have the same numbers of points and curves; these two masters were then assigned nominal values of 300 and 700, and to any number inside this interval was assigned a specific typeface.
This research is directed to everyone, however it is specifically addressed to whoever is in the field of communication and especially to designers that play a crucial role in creating our visual world and that were responsible in the past for the reiteration of common clichés.
Anyone inside the world of visual design should acknowledge and ponder the power of communication and its ability to model and create present and future imagery. Given that society is continually changing on a cultural level, visual designers should constantly reflect on and question consolidated practices in their field.