Name: Construk Sans

Designer: Ryan Hicks

Release Date: Still in development

Back Story: Inspired by a TED Talk by cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky, Construk Sans is the creation of Ryan Hicks, who’s currently coming to the end of his BFA at the University of Texas. “I’d been thinking about typography as a voice, and how designers can use typography to communicate something just through its tone and cadence,” he says. 

Hicks points out that today, we still see numerous, unnecessary instances of descriptors such as “female artist,” and wanted to interrogate what language would be like if we simply did away with gender pronouns. “The idea was not so much to censor language or replace words, but rather to imagine an alternate future where these things don’t exist, or when gender doesn’t exist,” says Hicks.

As such, Construk Sans uses typographic ligatures to realize an alternate version of the English language that is void of gendered words, including gendered pronouns, by replacing words such as “she” and “he” with the neutral “they.”

Construk Sans by Ryan Hicks

What are its defining characteristics? Construk Sans is a clear, unfussy font to keep the message and the meaning uncluttered. “I didn’t want it to be too ornate or unserious,” says Hicks. “It’s meant to be used as a tool, so it needed to feel a little queer, but also pretty neutral in its form, like Arial or Helvetica, and be taken seriously in body text and be readable.” The font specimen uses white and green in an attempt to avoid traditionally “gendered” colors such as blue or pink.

While it’s a simple, Grotesk-like font, Construk Sans has some subtle accents, such as a “quirky” @ symbol. “The relationship between the x height and cap height is smaller than usual, so it feels more graphic,” says Hicks. “In letters like the ‘f’ and the ‘j,’ the ascenders and descenders take a little inspiration from typefaces like Favorit from Dinamo.”

Construk Sans by Ryan Hicks

Why is it named Construk Sans? It’s a play on words in a couple of ways. Construk Sans references the idea of doing away with gender constructs, of course, and also hints at connotations of construction, or building—the idea of making progress. The “k” ending is simply a nod to typography naming conventions, and a way for Hicks to show off some of his favorite characters.

What should it be used for? Hicks reckons it’s a typeface for the workplace, “communicating with colleagues on a level that’s professional, but where there’s a certain amount of respect between people,” he says. Another interesting usage would be examining older texts, or literary big-guns, such as Catcher in the Rye, to see how they might change when gender becomes obsolete.

What other typeface do you like to pair it with? “I would probably pair it with other experimental typefaces–possibly that explore ideas more in their form than their function,” says Hicks. A couple of examples include Keedy Sans by Jeffery Keedy and Space Mono by Colophon Foundry. 

Construk Sans by Ryan Hicks