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Let’s celebrate a typographic night at the Orchestre de Paris


rguably France’s flagship orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris was founded in 1967 as a worthy successor to the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, the earliest French symphony orchestra, and has its permanent residence at the Salle Pleyel. The orchestra offers a vast repertoire extending from symphonic works to opera and the music of our own time. Paavo Järvi became Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris at the start of the 2010/11 season, following in the footsteps of some of the world’s most distinguished conductors, and after just seven months his contract has been extended to the end of the 2015/16 season.

It is thanx to him and his team of high profile people, that OdP has it’s own distinct typography that goes back to the past and is designed for years to come. Named after Pierre-Simon Fournier, the exclusive corporate typeface of Orchestre de Paris, Fournier ODP borrows from the numerous alphabets produced by him, retaining only the finest cuts and adding its own peculiarities: anachronical ampersand, reversed letters in reverence to poster ephemera of the times, etc.

“Le Jeune” (1712 - 1768), punch-cutter and type-founder was famous for his musical founts, the Parisian Pierre-Simon Fournier is considered one of the first French “Moderns”. Fournier le Jeune’s work was widely accepted during the Rococo period because of the elegant and sensual curves which he lent to his type and ornaments. He sought to create designs that were previously used only in copper engraving and etching and reform them to be used in printing. He also hoped to design italics that more closely resembled the handwriting of his time. He seemed to ornament not only type but filets and measures as well. But his most important contribution to typography was his system for standardizing the measurement of typefaces.

His first publication was entitled, “Tables des Porportions qu’il faut observer entre le caracterics;” and he wrote, “I give it a place herein order to explain the new proportions which I have applied to type bodies by the fixed measures which I call typographic points…introducing in this department of typography an orderliness which it has never before had. Through the invention of typographic points, I think I have been fortunate enough to succeed with an exactness and precision which leave nothing to be desired. The typographic point is nothing but the division of the type body into equal and definite degrees which are called points. By this means anyone can know exactly the degree of difference and the relation of type bodies to one another.” Didot later used Fournier le Jeune’s measurements to create his own system which would also contribute to the point system used today.

So it is a big tribute from a contemporary important French designer to a master of typography, a project commissioned by one of France’s most prolific culture hubs. This is a pure French Affair with stylish letterforms with lots of history in their genes. Jean-Baptiste Levée of Production Type worked methodically in a process where history and technology are approached altogether within the nuances of artistry and this is just a brief in his creation.

“The “Graphiques” series are designed to allow for polychromic settings and the “Gothic” series are a nod to the residues of modernism. Faithful to the tradition of optical sizes, different designs have been assigned to different scales of use. Fournier ODP starts with a classical Serif style. The lighter weights are especially based on Fournier’s Cicero Poetique, a narrow series designed to fit a 12-syllabus poetry line in a specific length. Bolder weights are more connected to his Gros Canon, a fierce design with generous x-height for titling purposes.

The companion Sans family is a contrasted serif-less design, while the supportive act is played by a less contrasted Gothic, a wink to the modernity of the Fournier pattern. At the tipping end of this 45-members type system are the Graphique series, a highly contrasted design that is invisibly stenciled to allow for multicolor and playful typesettings.

While Fournier is definitely a contemporary brush-up of a timeless classic, historical touches have been scarcely allocated, such as italic d, g and z alternates which refer to Fournier’s mannered yet radical cursives. The reversed letters are more eccentric and illustrate a typical mistake of hasty (or lazy) typographers of the seventeenth century: caught in the rush of an emergency typesetting, they would carelessly flip metal letter blocks.

In Fournier ODP, the results are odd-looking, offset words that recall the charm of a lighthearted jobbing work. The final touch is brought by Fournier’s emblematic ornaments, digitized anew and embedded in the fonts.

Type design: Jean-Baptiste Levée

Visual identity, logotype: FutureBrand, Paris.

Assistance: Yoann Minet, Mathieu Réguer, Laurent Bourcellier, Roxane Gataud.