Roger Excoffon: 10 things to know about
1. One of our favorite typeface designers of the mid-century, the painter & philosopher Roger Excoffon was born on the 7th of September, 1910, in Marseille, France.
2. Excoffon studied law at the University of Aix-en-Provence, and then moved to Paris to apprentice in a print shop.
3. In 1947, he formed his own advertising agency and concurrently became design director of a small foundry in Marseille called Fonderie Olive. He aksi co-founded the prestigious Studio U+O, named in reference to "Urbi et Orbi."
4. Chambord is the first type by Excoffon who went on to design many groundbreaking hits for Olive. Chambord was created to compete with Cassandre’s Peignot (1937) and it was the subject of a Deberny & Peignot lawsuit.
Roger Excoffon, Chambord Étroit [Narrow/Condensed], Fonderie Olive, Marseilles, 1949. See more Excoffon specimens in the Online Archive. Join for beta access: https://t.co/a126kCJcU2 pic.twitter.com/qzpKEXptPL— Letterform Archive (@Lett_Arc) November 8, 2019
5. Excoffon's best-known faces are Mistral and Antique Olive, the latter which he designed between 1962 and 1966. Air France, one of Excoffon's largest and most prestigious clients, used a customized variant of Antique Olive in its wordmark and livery until 2009, when a new logo was introduced.
6. Banco and Choc are also highly influential. Choc (French: “shock”) is a display script typeface designed by Excoffon in 1955. The typeface grew out of Excoffon's repeated and ultimately abandoned efforts to make a bold of his typeface Mistral. This mystery quirky calligraphic font that took over the Big Apple per the New York Times “is a typeface that draws the eye with its inherent contradictions.”
“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 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.
7. Maybe it's because of this organic vibrancy not found in similar sans-serif types of the period that make his work so powerful to the eye as Excoffon's typefaces gave voice to an exuberant body of contemporary French and European graphic design.
8. “Excoffon’s work is a central part of the personality of post-WWII France — the three decades that the French call les trente glorieuses” writes Type@Cooper of Bruce Kennet's ode to Excoffon's work.
A massive portfolio of work that “rapidly found its way into the very fabric of everyday life, visible in the tiniest villages of rural France on the awnings of beauty parlors and exterior signs of garages” during the 1950s and ’60s.
Over next few days I’ll be posting examples of Roger Excoffon’s work, in conjunction with my Lubalin Lecture at Cooper Union, NYC, 16 October. Here, the rooster, longtime symbol of France, painted in gouache; later used with Pathé Films publicity. pic.twitter.com/IxDM621V4W— Bruce Kennett (@WADwiggins) September 25, 2019
“Beyond his printing types, Excoffon also expressed the fundamental spirit of the times through his posters for Air France, his work in advertising, and his graphic design program for the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. He was a prime mover in les Rencontres de Lure, France's equivalent of the Aspen Design Conference” notes Bruce Kennet's intro to his must-watch presentation, available to watch here.
Poster for Winter Olympics, 1968. Illustration and design by Roger Excoffon. Text set in Antique Olive type, also designed by RE. Come see my Lubalin Lecture about RE on Oct 16th in NYC. https://t.co/rPVXT2KJdD pic.twitter.com/s9cbt1T2jo— Bruce Kennett (@WADwiggins) September 27, 2019
9. “Excoffon will be the end product of all my thinking, the sum of everything that I have accumulated during my career as a typographer.” This is how typography master Roger Excoffon would describe the typeface he was working on in 1974, a daring and uncommon old style face. Unfortunately the typeface failed to be published because of a contractual misunderstanding, and Excoffon died a few years later. Based on Bruno Bernard's exploration of the Excoffon archives the following presentation during ATypI 2017 summarize his gatherings about this fascinating project. In his insightful talk Bernard tries to “identify the concepts Excoffon wanted to piece together to propose new ways of thinking about type design.”
10. Excoffon passed away on the 30th of May, 1983 with his very French legacy still conquering our aesthetics. Explore more Excoffon excellence through a dedicated website, designed by Axelle Le Sourd and Marianne Estrangin, two granddaughters of the multi-faceted artist, here.