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Type Design Today

By John D. Berry

When Jean-François Porchez handed me a copy of a Japanese graphic-design magazine, "Idea," while I was visiting him in Paris last month, my first impression was that it featured a very nice article about Jean-François's work as a type designer, and a cover that used one of his more unusual typefaces. The cover, it turned out, was designed by Jean-François himself, and he was the subject of an extensive, well-illustrated article, but the 200-page issue is essentially the equivalent of a short book on its topic: "Type Design Today." There are many books that don't give as thorough a snapshot of the state of modern type design as this issue of a magazine does.

What Jean-François was most delighted with was the way "Idea's" designers had reproduced some of his type-specimen sheets, and tipped them into the issue, despite the fact that he had never sent them digital files to work from. "It's all a fake!" he cried, with a smile, as he pointed this out to me. They must have scanned the specimens (at very high resolution) and then chosen equivalent paper stock and printed them on that paper, carefully, to re-create the original specimens in faithful copies. It was almost like the loving reproductions of 17th or 18th century type specimens done for books about printing and typography in the 20th century. Why the "Idea" designers didn't ask Jean-François for the digital files and use them, I don't know, but the result certainly surprised and amused the type designer.

Figure 1: A spread from the section on Jean-François Porchez's Le Monde typeface. The righthand page is part of a foldout type specimen.


And the effect for the reader is spectacular. Foldout specimens of Le Monde, the family of typefaces that Jean-François created for the famous Paris newspaper, and of Anisette, a sans serif face with both wide and narrow widths inspired by Maximilien Vox's typeface Banjo, punctuate the magazine; along with another foldout inside the front cover, a demonstration by Jean-François of various typographic terms and distinctions. None of the other articles include foldouts, but they are all generously and stylishly illustrated. (There is also a large foldout poster at the back of the issue, which is not obviously related to the type-design theme.)

Read full article here: Type Design Today