Perhaps it’s his preferred medium of the poster that has afforded such freedoms, but Philippe Apeloig’s typeface designs represent a spirit of exploration that is rarely manageable in commercial design work these days.
Born from specific poster commissions over the past two decades, the typefaces represent his response to topics as diverse as how patrons move through the stacks of a library, to a score based upon Nietzsche’s poetry, to South African tribal marking systems, to the subatomic discoveries of Alfred Nobel. Though these designs are not new, their 2013 public release merits their inclusion here.
Seeing these typefaces in their original display context demonstrates the importance of complete typography in Apeloig’s body of work; such results would have been impossible had off-the-shelf typefaces been employed. Every type design carries baggage, after all (some more than others, of course); Apeloig’s creations free him of that encumbrance to allow the production of original and artfully integrated typographic design. Scale, rhythm, harmony, proportion — all design fundamentals, and simultaneously addressed at both micro and macro levels in the poster format.
Apeloig’s investigations of figure and ground, legibility, and systematic letterform construction are clearly reminiscent of the typographic explorations of both Pierre di Sciullo and Wim Crouwel. But Apeloig’s conceptual approach results in faces that are more usable than di Sciullo’s decidedly academic studies, and less rigid than Crouwel’s. That said, some designs are more successful than others, both in terms of aesthetics and legibility; such is the nature of experimental typography.
To describe Apeloig’s designs as playful would be doing him a disservice, yet there’s an undeniable humanity and wit to these typefaces. They are not perfect by any means, but are exemplary for their process of consideration, which is something to which we can all aspire.
Conor Mangat is a typographic designer from London. Educated to ideological extremes (Ravensbourne, CalArts, Reading), his exploits so far encompass areas of graphic, interaction, typeface, and information design. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.