How Roger Excoffon's Choc shocked the Big Apple
Choc (French: "shock") is a display script typeface designed by Roger Excoffon in 1955. The typeface grew out of Excoffon's repeated and ultimately abandoned efforts to make a bold of his typeface Mistral.
In the 1980s, the prevailing opinion among designers was that, because of its lack of modernity, it was one of Excoffon's "tacky fonts that should only have been used for parodying the shop window of a provincial butcher, baker or hair salon". In the 1990s, Choc was distributed digitally with the graphics software CorelDraw under the name Staccato 555.
CorelDraw's widespread use in signmaking shops may have helped Choc in becoming widely used in signage. Because the letterforms evoke the forms of East Asian calligraphy (whether intentionally or not is unclear).
Choc is especially often used in signs for Asian businesses. The New York Times wrote in 2018 that "Choc has become a typographical shorthand for Asian-themed restaurants" in New York City, where it is frequently seen.
"It's a typeface that draws the eye with its inherent contradictions. It seems to have been drawn improvisationally with a brush, and yet it's so hefty it looks like it could slip off a wall. It's both delicate and emphatic, a casual paradox, like a Nerf weapon. Choc is far from the most popular typeface on the storefronts of New York, but it can still be found everywhere and in every borough. It's strewn on fabric awnings and etched in frosted glass. It gleams in bright magenta or platinum lighting. It's used for beauty salons, Mexican restaurants, laundromats, bagel shops, numerous sushi bars. It may be distorted, stacked vertically, or shoehorned into a cluster of other typefaces. But even here Choc remains clear and articulate, its voice deep and friendly, its accent foreign, perhaps, yet endearing. You've already seen it, probably repeatedly, like a stranger you recognize from your morning commute" reports NYT.
Explore more of this typographic adventure here.