Type design helps Parisians catch right bus
Parisian bus users may find life a little easier from this month thanks to a new LED display font created by French type designer Jean Francois Porchez
If you've used public transport in Paris in the last 15 years, you'll be familiar with type designer Jean François Porchez's work. The RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisien) is one of the biggest and most efficient urban transport networks in the world, with 10 million passengers using the Métro alone every day. In 1996, it briefed Porchez to update Adrian Frutiger's iconic Univers-based font created for the Paris Métro which was inaugurated in the 70s.
Porchez explains the advantages of Parisine over its predecessor on his Typofonderie website
In response, Porchez created Parisine, a customised font family which pays homage to Frutiger's creation, but with a slightly more feminine feel that's as sexy and elegant as the city itself. Parisine was extended in 1999 to a full family of 12 fonts for all wayfinding and directional sign systems and maps. Parisine Office was added in 2005 for advertising and internal and external communication. In 2006, Parisine Pro was launched, an updated version which includes small caps and is available to all users.
This month sees the introduction of Porchez's latest work for the RATP – a version of the font to be used on LED panel signage for Paris's buses.
The RATP wanted to optimise visibility on their bus fleet and to make it visually coherent with the Parisine font family, a complex brief with several challenges.
Firstly, the LED displays used can only handle a one-size-fits-all font with no measured spacing between letters. The maximum letterheight on the buses' front panels is just 18 centimetres. Secondly, the low resolution of LED lighting combined with the roll-sign and flip displays previously in use caused great problems for passengers with impaired vision. In addition, Parisian bus termini often have excessively long names such as Mairie d'Aubervilliers or École Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort. Finally, according to Porchez, there was no way to produce a working prototype; the design would have to go straight from printout mock-ups to implementation.
Unfazed, Porchez produced Parisine Giroutte, a complete family of three upper and lower case LED fonts. The project took him over a year with a team of six RATP project managers and an official from the French Ministry of Transport coordinating with the RATP's Accessinilité pour Tous (Accessibility for All) division.
"The letterform design was the principle issue," says Porchez. "We designed several versions, tested various weights and proportions until we found a solution that worked for everyone. We proposed using static text, in a smaller size than necessary, as preferable to large-sized moving text. Non-static text moves too fast to be read comfortably, especially when the bus is in motion, too."
Parisine Girouette Frontale is used for the destination on the bus front, condensed to allow maximum word length. Parisine Girouette Latérale Bold is used for the terminus name, Regular and Light are used to indicate intermediate stops. Great care was taken on the counters' design (for instance, the lowercase n is not squared like the o), while some letters have several variants to make kerning possible, something of a hallmark with Porchez's font creations.
The new design, it seems, has gone down well with the travelling public, who, in these days of instant online protest, perhaps paid it the highest of compliments – nobody noticed a thing.
[Ed: type design in this highly practical context is perhaps like a referee – working best when no-one notices it!]
Typeface designer: Jean François Porchez, with Mathieu Réguer and Sonia da Rocha. Website here.
This video explains more about the project:
CR in Print
The January issue of Creative Review is all about the Money - well, almost. What do you earn? Is everyone else getting more? Do you charge enough for your work? How much would it cost to set up on your own? Is there a better way of getting paid? These and many more questions are addressed in January's CR.
But if money's not your thing, there's plenty more in the issue: interviews with photographer Alexander James, designer Mirko Borsche and Professor Neville Brody. Plus, Rick Poynor on Anarchy magazine, the influence of the atomic age on comic books, Paul Belford's art direction column, Daniel Benneworth-Gray's This Designer's Life column and Gordon Comstock on the collected memos, letters and assorted writings of legendary adman David Ogilvy.
Please note, CR now has a limited presence on the newsstand at WH Smith high street stores (although it can still be found in WH Smith travel branches at train stations and airports). If you cannot find a copy of CR in your town, your WH Smith store or a local independent newsagent can order it for you. You can search for your nearest stockist here. Alternatively, call us on 020 7970 4878, or buy a copy direct from us. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 970 4878 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine.
CR for the iPad
Read in-depth features and analysis plus exclusive iPad-only content in the Creative Review iPad App. Longer, more in-depth features than we run on the blog, portfolios of great, full-screen images and hi-res video. If the blog is about news, comment and debate, the iPad is about inspiration, viewing and reading. As well as providing exclusive, iPad-only content, the app will also update with new content throughout each month.
This is proper design at its best.
Useful, functional, practical and aesthetically pleasing to boot!
A few years ago in my spare time, I created a typeface for Dublin's "Luas" tram service. I tried to work within the limitations of the current hardware on trams.
What a lovely lovely typeface. Quite possibly the nicest LED usage I've seen. Really like the angles on the tails of the c and e. Very well done.
This is a great urban type design – it not only looks much better than before, it looks so much easier to use. Loads more public transport systems could do with Jean Francois Porchez's help.
I'm glad you write about a subject that touches me heart.
And being myself bus driver RATP, I am proud of your article.
|Albertus and The Prisoner (7)|
|Ads of the Week (2)|
|A new kind of play centre by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd (2)|
|Also Shot on iPhone 6 (4)|
|Warning: design porn (8)|