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Subject: Re: Masculine/Feminine
From: Hrant H Papazian <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 4 Sep 2001 15:30:19 -0700

text/plain (125 lines)

From: Georgia Wolf 2
> Are you saying that a given typeface can have this *hard-coding*
> by being built in by the designer or that a typeface can illicit
> these behaviors by its appearance and how we interpret them?

The second part. But that of itself isn't at all
controversial. What many people have a problem with
is my more interesting claim: that how we interpret
them is [partly] "hard-coded".

From: Sophie Brissaud
> Looks like getting to the core of archetypes is reaching
> a zone where gender is no longer very important.

So something that's difficult to understand
is unimportant? I think it's just the opposite.

From: William Adams
> I think it's difficult to convincingly categorize a typeface
> as a particular gender, since it's so rarely seen in a setting
> which doesn't influence one's perception of that face

Good point. Furthermore, a typeface can't be entirely male
or female, it's always somewhere in between, and where it
is *does* depend on cultural (non-physical) "conditioning",
just not entirely.

> Futura Extra Black (the one which looks
> like stencil type) are quite masculine

Yes, dark is masculine, light is feminine.

> Similarly, what's feminine (or effeminate?) about Sabon?

The entire "whiteletter" foundation of
contemporary type/typography is feminine.

> I do think this is a valid comparison, and do find, for example
> Nofret to be a face which evokes feminine ideals of beauty,
> grace and balance, while Melior is more masculine / sturdy /
> information-oriented

A very astute, elegant, and even timely observation.
Zapf Von Hesse's characteristic lc "a"s tend to be
supremely feminine glyphs.

From: Michael Brady
> Human signs and gestures are deeply embedded in social history.

Yes. But they are also deeply embeded in our genes.

From: Curtis Clark
> You don't even know me.

But of course you know me very well, right?...

From: Gunnar Swanson
> I just don't get what the standards for typographic
> masculinity and femininity are nor have I seen enough
> examples listed to see the pattern.

Not that I know this inside and out (not by a long shot), but
the curve/feminine-straight/masculine association (and that it
does *not* come from conscious social training) I cannot doubt.

> Is this all completely subjective?

My stance is that it isn't.

> Is there agreement on type gender
> among those who think this way?

Probably, but -as Curtis and Sophie implied- even extensive
field research couldn't really "prove" my stance, or yours.

From: Michael Brady
> Why do you want to associate a feeling or response, that
> is, whatever the typeface elicits in you, by resorting to
> an intermediary? Why do you drag in notions of the feminine
> and masculine, which are devilishly elusive to apply and
> agree upon, to non-sexual artifacts?

Nothing is non-sexual. Procreation is the closest thing we have
to a "reason to exist" - when that's distorted, it's society's
destructive doing. Next to procreation (our foundation driving
force), there is nourishment (our conscious driving force).

BTW, the reason I look for associations
is to make my type designs work better.

> Why don't you just assert that Futura is ________ and _______

The more specific you get, the more Culture over-rides
Nature, and the less solvable/interesting things get.

> Aren't you adding an unnecessary, and in
> fact confusing, transit stop for your feelings?

I'm not the user of my fonts - my feelings are secondary.
I want to know the feelings of *others*, and the causes.

From: Randal
> there is a built-in biological urge
> to cuddle and aid small round things

This type of thing is all around us,
if we're just brave enough to look.

Joshua Darden
> Even if it were possible to quantify every typeface's place
> on a masculinity-femininity gamut, it wouldn't impact the
> way typefaces are used.

Quantification is indeed futile. But, for example, knowing how
to make your design more feminine/masculine for a client is not.

> An example: HTF Knockout is used ....

But that's like saying: "My cousin jumped off
the 5th floor of his building, and he's fine!"

Examples are merely the surface - they really tell us nothing.


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