Ryan Hicks knew designing an original typeface was ambitious, but he wanted to do it anyway.
He started brainstorming for his senior Capstone early, attending others' Capstone presentations and thinking about ideas that intrigued him. The summer before he enrolled in Capstone, he decided to create a font.
During the design research phase, Hicks realized he didn't want to design a typeface without a bigger idea behind it — he wanted it to mean something. As a back-up plan, he had considered doing a project that critiqued the use of the terms "masculine" and "feminine" in design; this idea became the driving force behind Construk Sans.
The original typeface challenges gender pronouns through ligature, a way of replacing certain characters with others. In order to explore a version of the English language in which gendered pronouns ("he/she") no longer exist, Construk Sans simply replaces them with gender-neutral alternatives. For instance, fireman becomes firefighter, and congresswoman becomes congressperson.
The bulk of the design work took place over two months during the fall semester. Since its completion, Construk Sans has been featured by AIGA Eye on Design and used in a lyric music video for a nonbinary musician. While it's functional as-is, Hicks says the font needs some linguistic fine-tuning, especially in more gendered languages like Spanish. He has considered making it open-source so that others can iterate upon his original work.
When asked how SDCT empowered him to create his first original typeface, Hicks noted his faculty mentors and their instruction both in and out of the classroom.
"I've taken so many seeds from [SDCT] into the workplace," says Hicks.
Some of those "seeds" were Illustrator shortcuts gleaned from Jim Walker and a forwarded lecture from Jason Wilkins (that later helped inspire the idea behind Construk Sans). Hicks knew his professors cared about him outside of class, a camaraderie that he found unique to SDCT.
Hicks is also thankful that SDCT teaches type design at all because it's a discipline that isn't always typical of undergraduate design programs. Although it was a topic he previously thought inaccessible, as a Design student he was able to develop a love of typography that will last long after his time at UT.
After graduating with his B.F.A. in Design in May 2019, Hicks moved to Seattle and started a new job at Fuzzco, a creative agency based out of Charleston. He is currently working on another typeface for Fuzzco's “Pretend Store,” a virtual retail shop for employee work.