Type Design as a Collaborative Process

08 Nov 2018

St Bride Foundation, London

The Beatrice Warde Memorial Lecture

Drawing on her experience as a type historian, type-designer, and educator, Fiona Ross will discuss how, despite notable historical accounts to the contrary, type design is rarely a solitary occupation conceived in a vacuum but rather a collaborative enterprise informed and executed by different contributors in answer to specific typographic needs. This is particularly true in the case of non-Latin scripts, whose users outnumber those of Latin, and whose published typographic histories have, perhaps unwittingly, failed to acknowledge all contributors to the design process.

This illustrated talk will highlight particular examples of Indian-script type development to illustrate how our understanding of contemporary design issues can benefit from an appreciation of the key contributors who, in specific contexts, combined to determine the typographic representation of South Asian languages. It will provide an insight into how a collaborative design process in the twenty-first century can enrich the palette of visible voices available to diverse linguistic communities.

Fiona Ross specializes in non-Latin type design and typography, having a background in languages with a PhD in Indian Palaeography (SOAS). From 1978 to 1989 she worked for Linotype Limited (UK), with responsibility for the design of their non-Latin fonts and typesetting schemes. Since 1989 she has worked as a consultant, author, lecturer, and type designer; her recent work as a designer has been in collaboration with Tim Holloway, John Hudson (Tiro Typeworks) and Neelakash Kshetrimayum for clients such as Ananda Bazar Patrika, Adobe, Microsoft and Harvard University Press. In 2003 Fiona joined the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading (UK), where she is Professor of Non-Latin Type Design and Curator of the Department’s Non-Latin Type Collection.

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