Typeface Review

Apeloig Type Library

Reviewed by Conor Mangat on March 11, 2014

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 San Francisco-based designer.

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