Why do they look like that?

A lot of design decisions go into creating something like the pronoun ribbons. Here’s an explanation of why they look the way they do.

Font – Encode Sans

The type is set in Encode Sans. We chose this typeface because:

  • It’s highly readable, which matters when people are reading it from across the room.
  • It has a wide range of characters available, so we can create matching ribbons in other languages that use the Latin, Cyrillic and Greek alphabets.
  • It is released under an open license, so we don’t have to worry about licensing terms when we use it.
  • It is readily available from Google Font and numerous other distributors for free.

Fabric Color – Bright Green

We chose the shade of green for two reasons. First, green isn’t commonly associated with any particular gender in the parts of the US where we’re from, so it’s not implicitly gendering. Second, the slightly fluorescent shade is a little less common in the sets of ribbons we’ve seen at cons recently, so it catches the eye and makes it easy for people who’ve seen one pronoun ribbon to pick them out at a distance.

We made them all the same color instead of color-coding them in some way, because any sort of color-code is building up a relationship between gender and color, and because it would end up creating a false sense of equivalence between all the fill-in-the-blank options. It also means that people learn to recognize “the pronoun ribbon color,” and can quickly scan for it when looking at the name tag of someone new.

Ink Color – Black / Not Foil

The text is black rather than one of the colored foils available so that people who make changes or write in with a marker still match with the printed text.

Two Pronouns – Subject / Object

We only list two forms of the pronoun rather than the more expressive three because we expect that most people are familiar with most of the sets of pronouns we’re pre-printing, and it allowed us to make the text itself bigger and easier to read from a distance. We intend to reconsider this decision on sets where the conjugation of the three forms is hard to guess.