Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Queer Typography

Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography?

Queer Design Chats: What Is Queer Typography?

Looking for queer anything often feels lonely. 

1993 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick ... "Intellectuals and artists of color whose sexual self-definition includes 'queer' ... are using the leverage of 'queer' to do a new kind of justice to the fractal intricacies of language, skin, migration and state."

I'm looking for a the messy mix of criss-crossing connections and intersections ... wandering and searching ... opening space for community and conversation ... an inquiry and an invitation ... a need to connect with kin ...

... the stories of struggle and oppression and liberation that can be found wherever power is doing its thing. Heteropatriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism - this is the matrix of domination, as named by Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought (1990).

Jack Halberstam, borrowing from his book The Queer Art of Failure (2011) ... "the failures we might build upon in order to counter the logics of success ... failure is the map of political paths not taken ... failure's byways are the spaces in between the superhighways of capital"

borrowing Saidiya Hartman's work on waywardness ...  those in-between spaces ... maybe not legible at all ...

Dennis Grauel ... some of the ways that the type design industry participates in these logics of success ... shifting value from a production-based paradigm to a maintenance one, using care as the framework for type design and distribution... 

At the core of typography, as it's been taught and practiced for centuries, is control, precision, preservation of standards, the idea of perfect legibility, and the myth of the lone type designer as genius author.

Robin Mientjes ... "an attitude in the face of conformity, an attitude in the sea of passivity, an attitude to say yes when others say no. And that's poetic and abstract, but that's fine for our thesis today."

Dan Rhatigan ... research into gay publishing ... that began circulating in the 1960s and 70s ... for the first time ever we see typographic decision-making happening specifically in relation to a gay male audience ...

... focus on gay and lesbian liberation ... language like that rather than more inclusive terms ... to acknowledge context and how language operates in such limited ways ... and the fact that this language sometimes reflects the limits and inequities of the movements themselves.

These radical publications were all very different from each other but there is a kind of approach and some fairly consistent design and typographic methods that are in direct contrast to the slickness and corporate control of mainstream graphic design ... 

... activists and other fringe communities and movements could only publish because of access to cheap printing ...

Looking back from more than 50 years in the future ... I really hesitate to identify these designs themselves as queer. This is not a queer aesthetic ... 

In this very broad sense, queerness can be located in the radical, outsider status of these publications and their designs. This is queerness as an underground alternative way of creating networks of care. Queerness is the scrappy, ad hoc, and sometimes homemade designs that were directly related to the urgency of protest and activism and survival. 

Queerness has a close relationship to secret languages... hanky codes... Polari... 

In a recent conversation with Nat Pyper, an alphabet artist, ... and nichole killian ... "there is no queer history, only a history of queer acts, and I wonder how that might be mapped onto typography, like: there's no queer typography only a history of queer ___" ... and after a few seconds it was so obvious to us - queer reading and queer writing. 

There is no queer typography, only queer acts of reading and writing.

[from Paul Soulellis, What is Queer Typography?]

Queer Alphabets

Nat Pyper: A Queer Year of Love Letters

Robert Ford

Martin Wong

G.B. Jones

Women's Car Repair Collective

Ernestine Eckstein 


Be Oakley: Protest Sign Fonts 

Mother Nature Is A Lesbian

I Am Your Worst Fear I Am Your Best Fantasy & First Gay Americans

ACT UP Protest

Black Trans Lives Matter

Say Their Name

Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR)

An Action For Trans Youth

Tre Seals: Vocal Type








The Neue Black


Du Bois


Dennis Grauel


Type With Pride



Future Fonts


People Referenced

Paul Soulellis

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Patricia Hill Collins 

Jack Halberstam

Saidiya Hartman

Dennis Grauel

Robin Mientjes

Dan Rhatigan

Buddy (Buddie) Esquire 

Nat Pyper

nichole killian


A Few Queer Archives 

Gerber Hart


Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography

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