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How many female type designers do you know, Yulia?

Yulia Popova is not only a very talented Graphic Designer at MetaDesign Berlin, but also author of the book "How many female type designers do you know". In an interview our Marketing Manager Farinaz asked her a few questions in order to get to know her a bit better.

Farinaz: Yulia, I stumbled upon an amazing book, that you have published and that we are going to talk about today. But first of all, I would like to ask you to introduce yourself. Tell me briefly about yourself: Who are you? What do you do at MetaDesign and why do you do what you do today?

Yulia: Sure. I am Yulia Popova, I was born and grew up in Moscow, Russia, where I studied Product Design at the British Higher School of Art and Design. After several years of experience working in this field, I decided to move to Germany, to continue my studies in Integrated Design at the International School of Design (KISD) and later to finish my master’s in Communication Design at Weissensee Academy of Art. After working at Pentagram in Berlin, I started working as a Senior Graphic Designer at MetaDesign two years ago. Why I’m doing my job? I really enjoy working in diverse teams and solving problems. There is a lot of bad user experiences out there. And good user experiences make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

FR: That's an excellent motivation. The world needs heroes and heroines like you to fight bad user experiences. Let’s talk your book now. It is called: “How many female type designers do you know? I know many and I talked to some.” As the title clearly indicates, it is about female type designers and the little visibility women apparently have in this field. What are the three key findings that you have discovered, while working on your book?

YP: First: There are certainly many female type designers out there. Second: The gender balance of a conference panel is in the organizer’s hands since conferences are curated. And the last one is that it is hard to recognize inequality if you are used to it.

FR: These are very interesting findings. How did they come about?

YP: My interest at that time was focused on several areas of design, particularly on typography and gender in design. This combination of topics has appealed to me since my studies at KISD. In 2017 I attended the TYPO Berlin conference. I could not help but notice that the percentage of female speakers at the conference was under 30%. This looked like a paradox to me and I decided to dig into this issue and picked it as my master thesis. Why was there so little female speaker at the typography conference? I wanted to figure out if there are really less women in this field. During the research I stumbled upon the problem that there is not much literature on this topic. The only book I found was from 2012. I thought, it would be interesting to collect all my findings and put them in a book for other researchers to use.

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FR: And how exactly did you proceed?

YP: My research on gender issues in type design field became the first part of the book. It includes statistics, data and an overview of some works that address this issue. It also includes some biographies of female type designers that worked in the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th century. These women contributed to the industry, yet they are rarely mentioned in educational material. The second part of the book is a series of the interviews with 14 women that are either currently working as type designers or are in any other way involved in the field of type design. These interviews are intended to uncover the topic of unequal share of female and male speakers at type conference as well as the lack of women in the industry. It was important for me to know the perspective of professionals in this field. And lastly, because I got to know a lot of female type designers during the process - I contacted all of them and asked if they would be interested in contributing their work to the book. Almost everyone agreed. So, the last part of the book is a showcase of typefaces designed by women. The purpose of this part is to show the great amount and broad variety of such typefaces.

FR: Are you going to work further on this topic? Is there going to be a second part of it?

YP: I have just finished preparing the second edition of the book. It has a bit of adjusted content, new typefaces from talented women and a different cover. The research part and interviews are still the same.

FR: How and when did your enthusiasm for Typography start in the first place?

YP: It started during my exchange year at Parsons School of Design in New York. I participated in a course that was called “Experimental typography” Kevin Brainard. In this course we were designing posters, artwork for magazines and many more. But we were only allowed to use type. We were not allowed to use any images. No collages, no drawings, no illustrations. We had to use only typography to convey the message. I was fascinated by this approach so much! It did work and I fell in love with this principle. So ever since, every time I have to design something, most of the time I do it with typography only.

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FR: And what is going to be your next project after this?

YP: I have several. First, I'm working on a typeface - of course - and second, I'm learning to program and animate typography. It’s a bit complicated, let's see how it will turn out.

FR: Thank you, Yulia. I can't wait to see more of your work. All the best for you and the projects to come.

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Yulia Popova is Senior Graphic Designer at MetaDesign Berlin.

Photo credits: Axel von Wuthenau

“How many female type designers do you know? I know many and I talked to some.” was published at Onomatopee. To purchase the book, go to the publisher's website.