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Friday, June 9 • 4:50pm - 5:00pm
Researching through Critical Making: Using Illustrated Letterforms to Represent Fat, Intersectional Bodies within Design

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As a fat, queer, and nonbinary person, my identity is disconnected from design due to a lack of representation in the design field (AIGA Design Census 2019, Queer Design Club 2021). Thus, in Spring 2022, I explored my connection to design through an autoethnographic project which allowed me to understand my reflexive positionality. Based on my past work visually communicating my identity, this current project pursued an expansion using critical making to represent fat, intersectional (Crenshaw 1989) bodies using typography and illustration.

Feminist, fat, and disability theory were influential in the creation of this project. In bell hooks’s, Feminism is for Everybody, she stated, “There should be billboards; ads… television commercials… letting the world know about feminism” (2000). She was, and still is, calling for design to spread ideas of representation, equity, and pluriversality, and her call inspired this project expansion. The works of scholars and cultural critics like Charlotte Cooper, Dina Amlund, Laurie Cooper-Stoll, and Sarah Nutter have also been transformative in allowing me to understand fat intersectionality, and teach me the language with which to discuss these social issues. They share an understanding of fatness, and fatphobia, as a social justice issue. This project follows their assertion in a sociopolitical climate that is currently anti-trans and majorly lacks protections for large bodies.

Based on feminist principles of embracing context and pluralism, and legitimizing embodiment (D’Ignazio 2017), I dove into an initial three month making process where I illustrated letterforms based on fat, intersectional bodies. During this making process, my research evolved to engage with historical and contemporary typography. This nonlinear process allowed me to reflect on the development of my knowledge through critical making. I shared my work on Instagram which enabled me to embrace pluralism through basing work off peer suggestions and including a fat creator.

The current outcome of this project is a 26 letter latin alphabet of illustrated letterforms. The project is still ongoing as I am revising my letterforms and exploring their use in other design projects. I have experimented with their inclusion in typographic compositions based on those shown to typography students in the USA. How might these embodied letterforms push the boundaries of what we think of as successful typography (i.e. invisible) and expose fatphobic ideas within design?

This presentation will discuss my initial research, detail my making and research findings through my non-linear process, show current results, and discuss project evolution and expansion. By displaying my work at this conference, I plan to build on an overarching project goal: sharing this work with other designers as a way to call attention to the lack of fat and trans bodies within design. Their exclusion causes the design field to exclude valuable ways of doing and thinking that expand how we think about design as a whole.

AIGA and Google. 2019. “Design Census 2019.” https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/this-one-survey-could-change-the-way-you-think-about-design/
D’Ignazio, Catherine. 2017. “What would feminist data visualization look like?” Medium, January 22, 2017. https://medium.com/@kanarinka/what-would-feminist-data-visualization-look-like-aa3f8fc7f96c
Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1989. "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics," University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989: 139-167.
hooks, bell. 2000. Feminism is for Everybody. Boston: South End Press.
​​Queer Design Club, 2021. Queer Design Count. https://indd.adobe.com/view/7fc6714d-5a9d-47bb-9327-08443ad28507


Brooke Hull

Graduate Teaching Instructor, University of Florida

Friday June 9, 2023 4:50pm - 5:00pm EDT
PS 401 (Design Center)