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Let Louise Fili guide you through the boulevards of Parisian typography


Monsieur Olivier–style road sign. A bold, red stenciled 1920s type for Paris’ Métro system. A mosaic by 19th-century Italian artist Giandomenico Facchina as part of the Théâtre Antoine, in the 10th arrondissement. A series of Art Nouveau letterforms Hand-painted signage covering one side of the announcing the Samaritaine department stores’ offerings near Pont Neuf. The futurist-inspired architectural letterforms adorning the grand, curved wall of a primary school designed by architect René Requet-Barville, in the 11th arrondissement. For many Paris is the city of lights, for celebrated graphic designer Louise Fili it is the city of the letterform. Its stunning signage is a constant inspiration and a major on Fili’s own work.

Following the success of Grafica della Strada, a book in which she celebrated Italy’s typographic legacy capturing an impressive menu of lettering styles and materials from Bologna to Turin, Graphique de la Rue is Fili’s typographic lettre d’amour to Paris. As the renowned Italian-American designer has been strolling picturesque Parisian rues and boulevards for more than four decades, holding just a map and a camera, she was cataloging the work of generations of sign craftsmen. Today these photographs are becoming her own typographic travelogue, a visual diary of hundreds of Paris’ most inventive restaurant, shop, hotel, street, and advertising signs that will inspire lovers of typography and armchair travelers alike.

“The Art Deco letterforms on the facade of an old laiterie or the delicate gold-leaf typography of a boulangerie can make me giddy with delight”

Classic neon café signs are juxtaposed with the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère. Colorful mosaics cheerfully announce hotel entrances, department stores, fishmongers, even public toilets. Hector Guimard’s legendary entrances to the Paris Métro stations brush elbows with graceful gold-leaf and dimensional Art Deco, Futurist, or Art Nouveau architectural lettering, as well as whimsical pictorial signs (giant eyeglasses announce optics, and oversized hanging shears indicate a knife and scissors maker). Many of these masterpieces of vernacular design, now destroyed, live on solely in this book.

“The Art Deco letterforms on the facade of an old laiterie or the delicate gold-leaf typography of a boulangerie can make me giddy with delight,” she writes in Graphique De La Rue. “This book is my typographic love letter to Paris.” She prefers to discover this wealth of striking yet elegant in early morning “when the city belongs to no one but me and a silent army of green-suited street cleaners. I race through the desolate streets, chasing down every photogenic sign, playing cat and mouse with the sun until about 10:30 a.m... I then plan the rest of my day—as the incessant flaneur around the city, making unexpected typographic discoveries” she adds.

For those who can’t follow Fili’s footsteps in an instant, Graphique de la Rue is available September 1 from Princeton Architectural Press.