Above: Patricia Saunders (then Patricia Mullin) in the Monotype Drawing Office in 1955, aged 22. © Monotype Archives

It is with great sadness that our team has been informed that Patricia Saunders, former Monotype employee and designer of iconic typefaces such as Arial, Corsiva and Columbus, passed away last Tuesday 25 June 2019.

Born Patricia Mullin on 7 June 1933, she was educated at Reigate County School for Girls and, after a two-year spell working in an art book shop, Patricia joined the Monotype Drawing Office in Salfords, Surrey, in 1951. Hired and trained as a drawing clerk, Patricia contributed to the making of many Monotype faces such as Castellar, Spectrum, and Glint Ornaments, as well as non-Latin designs which were originated in-house. Like most of the women who worked in the Type Drawing Office (TDO), her work involved the completion of character sets for hot-metal typefaces, as well as the drawing of optical sizes, and the development of weight and width variants for existing designs. 

Patricia met her husband David Saunders in the Monotype Drawing Office and, after marrying in October 1959, she left Monotype to start a family in 1960. While the majority of the young women who left the TDO upon having children did not return, Patricia joined Monotype again in 1982. Having left the company when its main activity still revolved around hot-metal typesetting, upon her return Patricia was being asked to adapt and develop typefaces for the Monotype Lasercomp, the industry’s first digital laser phototypesetter. Under the supervision of Robin Nicholas, her work involved adapting Monotype’s iconic typefaces such as Van Dijck and Centaur, as well as completely redesigning Felix Titling, which was originally produced by Monotype in the 1930s and was based on the work of fifteenth-century calligrapher Felice Feliciano.  

Patricia is more specifically remembered for her contribution to a series of typefaces produced by Monotype in the early 1980s, and which were adopted by Microsoft as their core fonts, most notably Arial (co-developed with Robin Nicholas and based on Monotype Grotesque) as well as the script face Corsiva. In 1992 she designed Columbus, a digital typeface ‘with a Spanish flavour’ as a tribute to explorer Christopher Columbus.

Our team was very privileged to visit Patricia and her husband David at their home in Pwllheli, North Wales, in July 2018, and we feel deeply honoured to have met her. Her energy, wealth of experience and wisdom are all attributes that immediately spring to mind following our meeting and interview. Patricia will long be remembered as a role model for aspiring women type designers; and her contributions to type design will continue inspire further generations working in this field.

Post contributed by Prof. Fiona Ross and Dr. Alice Savoie, 29 June 2019