EXPLORING DIVERSITY - What difference does a FONT make?

Introduction

variety of fonts created by women and BIPOC designers

The Duke University Libraries are highlighting diverse font designers in exhibition spaces and would like to call attention to these artists; we invite you to join us in being curious about who created the fonts you use;  and encourage you to seek out fonts created by women and historically underrepresented designers.

While exploring equity, diversity and inclusion we began to consider that a lack of diversity in design could be playing a part in supporting systemic racism. In 2021 we committed to two years of exclusively using diverse font designers in our public exhibitions, and we will continue to consider diversifying the artists we utilize as a part of our permanent practice.

The library had previously considered the role of gender in font design, but had not considered race. According to a 2019 census by Google and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, design professionals are overwhelmingly white: 71% white/Caucasian, 36% Asian, 8% Latina/Latino/LatinX/Hispanic, 5% Multi-racial, and 3% Black/African American. We could not locate precise statistics on how many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) font designers are currently practicing, but after much research, we found very few—and even fewer women.

On his website vocaltype.co, Tre’ Seals asserts, “When an industry is dominated by a single race and gender, this not only creates a lack of diversity in peoples and experiences but ideas and creations as well.” His company is working to support BIPOC designers and advocating for diversity in the field.

Our “go to” fonts were often Calibri for san serif and Garamond for serif, usually design choices that were readable and we thought, trying not to make a statement. But were we making a statement by choosing from what we have always known, the familiar? We now have multiple families of fonts by women, and “creatives of color” for our  "go to" fonts including Freight, Halyard, Salford, Edita and Inter for text and Ruben, Carrie, Eva and Maiola for more decorative headings.

Explore the pages of this online exhibit to learn more about the designers and how we used them in recent exhibitions at Duke University Libraries. The last page includes some other resources to help you find your own! 

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