Sibylle Hagmann

Sibylle Hagmann is an award-winning typeface designer and the founder of the creative studio platform Kontour, based in Houston. Her work appears in many publications and is acclaimed by the Type Directors Club of New York and Japan.

Hagmann was born in 1965 in Switzerland and pursued an education in graphic design at the Basel School of Design, which heavily involved the International Typographic Style, or “Swiss Style”. After graduating from Basel, Hagmann moved to the U.S. to study type design at California Institute of the Arts, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts. It was in the U.S. where she learned a new perspective on typeface and began to explore typeface past the boundaries of Swiss tradition.

In 1999, Hagmann completed the typeface collection “Cholla” for which she was commissioned by Art Center College of Design, and which was published by digital typeface foundry, Emigre, in the same year. Hagmann’s collection, Cholla, was among the winning works in the 2001 bukva:raz!, a competition held by the Association Typographique Internationale. In addition to Cholla, Hagmann, inspired by the unfinished ‘Charter’ typeface by W. A. Dwiggins in the 1930s, created “Odile”, a nine-part typeface fam­ily, which she completed in 2006. This collection consists of both functional and abstract elements varying from strict to playful and is versatile, whimsical, and eclectic, speaking to her varying educational perspectives from Switzerland to the US. “Odile” was awarded a Swiss Federal Design Award months after publication.

Hagmann’s style veers from but is still rooted in traditional Swiss Style. It’s difficult to create a new typeface because when working with the uniform Alphabet, creativity is limited as people need to be able to determine what the letter is in order to read the text. Indeed, Hagmann compares inventing a new typeface to inventing a new chair; there are only so many variations of the form while guaranteeing functionality.

After her own school career, Hagmann wanted to educate others on digital typography. She became art director of the USC School of Architecture and taught at many institutions in Southern California. The Swiss-American designer wanted to create a typeface that students could read easily, even in longer texts. She is a professor at the University of Houston School of Art. And not only did she create typeface families and become a professor herself, Hagmann also founded Houston-based Kontour, a creative studio platform that publishes original fonts for professional retail use.

Sibylle Hagmann founded Kontour in Houston, TX in 2000, which began as a vast platform for designers in the realm of graphic, typographic, and type design. Now, artists at Kontour develop, publish, and lease fonts for professional purposes.

That’s not all, though. Today, Hagmann is focused on clear recognizable letters, or the societally accepted symbols through which we communicate, but she is exploring how agreed-upon meanings from symbols can be manipulated through graphics so that they are seen as arbitrary shapes and lines. When symbols are stripped of their usual contexts, they become meaningless, un-codeable, to society. We will further explore what this means and how Hagmann has decontextualized symbols, like letters, in the coming posts.

Sibylle Hagmann

“About.” Sibylle Hagmann,
“Sibylle Hagmann.” University of Houston, 4 Dec. 2020,
Stohler, Peter. “Sibylle Hagmann Font ‘Odile’.” Swiss Culture Awards , Federal Office of Culture,
“Studio.” Kontour, 27 May 2020,
Weinraub, Samantha. “Meet the Designer behind Our New Font.” Moore College of Art & Design, 13 Jan. 2021,
Photo of Hagmann. Retrieved from: