Eugénie Bidaut on tackling the erasure of women in design history and breaking down binaries in type

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Eugénie Bidaut on tackling the erasure of women in design history and breaking down binaries in type


Since 2020 she has been researching inclusive or “epicene” writing in French at the Atelier national de recherche typographique. Inclusive writing offers an alternative to the binary masculine and feminine endings of words used in the French language. As it stands, French inclusive writing uses punctuation marks such as the hyphen, the period or the middle dot to produce words which refer to all genders. But this method gives rise to a series of “semantic, aesthetic and technical problems”, Eugénie points out. Breaking up words with punctuation creates inherent binaries within them. It can also affect the way text appears on the page aesthetically and often creates technical problems. The middle dot can be difficult to access on keyboards and when a period is used within a word, some softwares interpret it as a hypertext link – “the “.es” for example is the URL extension of Spanish websites”.

“Based on these observations, I am using type design as a way to experiment other, more harmonious and less binary ways of practising inclusive writing,” Eugenie continues. Through her investigations, she has come up with a three part solution: her typeface Adelphe. The first proposed solution is Adelphe Germinal, which, accompanied by OpenType features, automatically features a middle dot when two consecutive periods are typed – thus remedying the problem of keyboard accessibility. Another clever adjustment is offered by Adelphe Floréal. Here the middle dot is moved under the first letter of the feminine ending of a word. In contrast to Germinal, this solution avoids breaking up the word. When required, Floréal also marks masculine endings with a subscripted circumflex accent, Eugénie explains.

Still following? Good. Because next up is the final contender: Adelphe Fructidor. “This uses an alternative form of ‘e’ resembling an epsilon which is neither the feminine ‘e’ nor its masculine absence, a kind of non-binary letter,” says Eugenie. “When the feminine form does not consist of a simple addition of an ‘e’ to the masculine one, ligatures are used in order to create a fusion between masculine and feminine endings.”

Difficult to understand through description alone, Adelphe’s subtleties become clear when viewed simultaneously on the comparison cards Eugénie has created. Set to present her research at the end of the month, Eugénie is busily getting this project ready whilst juggling another project with the French-Belgian collective Bye Bye Binary – also set to launch in March. So, to find out more about the Queer Unicode Initiative they’re developing, Eugénie tells us to stay tuned.



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