August 6, 2020
Thank you to all who have contributed their time and thoughts to our restructuring of the TDC. Based on the responses we received from our members and the greater community, we have compiled a FAQ to shed some light onto where we are and where we are going.
WHO ARE WE?
Q: In what ways is the TDC a global organization?
A: Despite the fact that our organization is small, with an annual average of only 900 active members, our current members are based in 41 countries, making the TDC a multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, global organization.
Q: What is the makeup up of your Board of Directors?
A: Our incoming 2020 board comprised 13 board members.
- 54% women, of these, 57% are women of color
- 46% men, of these, 50% are men of color
Q: What is the makeup of your membership?
A: We do not collect demographic information from our membership aside from our members’ locations of residence.
Q. In what ways is the TDC perceived as New York-centric?
A: The TDC was founded in New York City 74 years ago. That’s where we’ve been headquartered, and historically, where our board has met, where our talks have been held and where our annual competition judging and awards have taken place. How to create greater value for the community outside of New York has been a challenge.
When the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine started, however, the TDC began to host our talks, salons, and workshops online. We discovered quickly that this format has made participation more accessible to a much wider and more global group of speakers and audiences. When the pandemic is over, we plan to continue this emphasis on digital programming, so that we may engage participants and speakers in all time zones.
Q: How does the TDC define diversity?
A: Broadly. Globally, in fact! We believe that diversity means just that: the broadest possible spectrum of human beings, including diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, language, economic status, ability and age. Typography has the unique role of communicating using the world’s languages and writing systems, and as an organization of typographers, we believe those scripts deserve platforms, education and celebration.
Q: What initiatives have demonstrated the TDC’s efforts to expand diversity, equity, global reach and representation?
Education and Scholarships
The TDC hosts educational workshops and salons throughout the year, primarily for working professionals but also to amateur type enthusiasts. We also partner with schools to support internal educational initiatives and to identify students demonstrating excellence and enthusiasm for typography to whom we can offer scholarships.
- The TDC Scholarship grants $1,000 to seven universities to distribute to seven students every year to support student tuition. Since 1998 the TDC Scholarship has granted roughly $154,000 in typographic scholarships to students all over the world. The scholarships are funded through TDC fundraising efforts.
- The Superscript Scholarship was founded by former Board members Bobby C. Martin Jr. and Cara DiEdwardo in 2019 to grant $5,000 to a deserving student of color who is studying type or design. The scholarship is funded by Monotype.
- The Beatrice Warde Scholarship was founded by Past President Graham Clifford and Carol Wahler in 2015, supported by Deborah Gonet of Monotype. It grants $5,000 to a deserving female-identifying student who is studying type or design. The scholarship is funded by Monotype.
Access to Content
- All programming content is free and online. Almost all of our talks and events are recorded, and afterwards the TDC makes all of this content available online—for free. Members have 30 days of access first, but anyone can view the last 7-8 years worth of events on the TDC page on YouTube.com and on Vimeo.
- Our content creation is becoming more decentralized and even more global. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine began, the TDC has begun hosting our talks, salons, and workshops online out of necessity, which makes access and participation even easier for a global audience. When the pandemic is over, we plan to continue this emphasis on creating our programming digitally, which will expand our content creation beyond the confines of New York City.
- A global, travelling exhibition. Entries to our annual competition come from 40+ countries. Each year, the winning works from the competition travel as a physical exhibition to as many as 20 countries and 50 cities. This helps bring content from all over the world to local type and design communities, schools, and arts organizations.
Speaking, Judging, & Representation
Increased representation has been an active and explicit goal of the TDC Board for several years, which we have so far achieved by:
- Drafting candidates for a more balanced Board of Directors. In 2011, our Board comprised 9 white men and 2 white women. In 2020, we comprised 13 board members. 54% women and 46% men. Of these, 54% are people of color
- Inviting the first all-women jury for our Type Design Competition (2017)
- Inviting a roster of TDC Conference speakers that achieved gender parity (2018)
- Hosting the first all-women panel for Book Night (2018), with 66% of the panelists POC.
- Hosting an exhibition and panel talk for the organization She Designs Books. The talk featured an all-women panel, with 66% of the panelists POC. (Feb 2020)
- Inviting Competition Judges from other countries and more diverse ethnicities to speak on a wider variety of global typographic issues at Judges Night (2017–present)
WHO WE CAN BE
Q: Is there anything about the structure of the TDC or its board that is inherently racist or exclusionary?
A: Many of the issues that plague the TDC and the board have historically been viewed as innocuous, bureaucratic inefficiencies, not explicitly designed with race, gender, or personal identity in mind. Nevertheless, the status quo inherently discourages participation by those who are underrepresented in our industry.
The club’s bylaws further stymie progress. We are currently rewriting them to make it easier to recruit potential board members from outside of our small pool of members, with an emphasis on recruiting a wider variety of typographic-creatives and experts from the BIPOC community.
Privilege defines the status quo. As part of the design industry, the club recognizes it has played a role perpetuating these barriers.
We pledge to do more to challenge this privilege, either dismantling it—or deploying it in the service of increased diversity, equity, and inclusivity. We call upon our members and our community to hold us accountable to this pledge.
Breaking the cycle includes better outreach and education directed outside the traditional design community, and doubling down on our previous efforts towards diverse boards, conferences, and speakers.
Q: How will the TDC bring even more diverse voices into its club and on its platforms?
A: We have developed a 3-tiered approach to promoting more diversity that builds upon our past work and success, and addresses where action was absent or insufficient:
- Transparency The TDC has achieved many milestones towards diversity, inclusion and empowerment in recent years. But we have never publicly discussed the push we were consciously making in these areas. We pledge to be more transparent in sharing our goals—including our continued push for an even more-balanced board, competition juries, and programming—and to double down on these efforts.
- Outreach To transform a culture, you must begin at the source, by focusing on young people with early education. We have begun identifying more high schools and higher education institutions that serve under-represented students for an outreach program, where board members, TDC members, and other people in our type community will volunteer to speak to classes about typography and design to illuminate the possibility of a design career.
- Funding We have begun the process of expanding our existing scholarship programs to fund more typographic education for students of color. We also pledge to promote these scholarships more widely.
Q: How have juries for competitions been chosen in the past, and how do those decisions promote equity and diversity?
A: Each year, 2 or 3 current board members volunteer to be co-chairs for our annual competition. (A board member is only allowed to be a co-chair once during their tenure on the board.) The competition juries are recruited by each year’s competition chair(s).
We seek out notable designers and influential creatives from throughout the United States and abroad. Judges are evaluated by the quality of their own work, the good reputation of their voices in the broader community, and their enthusiasm for type.
In recent years, the board has made extra efforts to ensure diversity and gender parity as much as possible. This remains one of the highest priorities for us, and influences every decision we make when assembling our juries. You can expect to see continued and increased diversity on all of our juries.
Q: How can you make membership more equitable?
A: Our current membership model has a narrow span of affordability. In May of 2020 we began looking at a possible new membership tier structure, which includes several much lower pricing membership levels. We plan to continue this work, to see if we can lower the financial barrier to joining the club.
That said, our survey results and other research tell us that membership is not as much of a financial barrier as a cultural one: because of its niche nature and level of expertise, typography as a whole can be seen as an exclusive community, even while we know it can also be largely warm and welcoming. We are looking to solve these issues in the most intersectional way possible, combining outreach, relatable messaging, and affordable access.