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Case Study

Read the signal

Signal is a typeface loop that opened in 2003, that we are now able to pursue in this year 2019.
Signal is a typeface loop that opened in 2003, that we are now able to pursue in this year 2019.
In 2003, Jean-Baptiste Levée was researching signage typefaces. The heroes of the time were Frutiger, Clearview, or Vialog, and humanistic sans seemed to be the way to go. An omnipresent type was also around, easy to spot and hard to research, as it beared no single name: Caractères, L1 - L2 - L3 etc. This odd, incomplete, austere typeface used for road signage across France had unclear origins up to its very designation.
Caractères, L1 - L2 - L3
Font: Signal Italic

The 1935 Signaux officiels document proposes reference alphabets for the signs in which one will find the prequel to Signal. Another decree was signed on July 15, 1942, under the Occupation of France by Germany. It modified some traffic rules and made extensive use of sans-serif types, however it is likely that these changes had not been fully implemented.
At the end of the Second World War, the Instruction Générale sur la signalisation routière appears. After the draft 1935 document “Signaux officiels”, it is the first document to regulate in a detailed way all the fields of signage. This Instruction Générale is a much more specific document with regard to alphabets. The exact height of letters is defined, as well as their width and thickness in great details. A set of roman uppercase and italic uppercase & lowercases are first revealed, with instructions on how to construct them. As incomplete, unsigned and poorly executed as the types were, they have been used thoroughly across France for more than 70 years after the decree.

In his 2003 research, Levée decides to put aside the Caractères as a study object. It is only in 2015 that Signal started to take shape. Enter the graphic designer and photographer Julien Lelièvre, who in 2009 became the laureate of the French National Center for Arts’ scholarship for the project Art d’autoroute: a census of roadside monuments populating France’s highway network. After ten years of survey across thousands of kilometers, 72 works were photographed and exhibited. In the continuity of his project, Lelièvre has commissioned a typeface from Production Type, which in turn called in type designer Emmanuel Besse to lay the foundations of an initial set of styles. Further expanded and enhanced, Signal is informed by these alphabets used on highway signs.
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Useful type with an edge.

Useful type with an edge.

Production Type provide retail as well as dedicated creative services in typeface design for brands.

Based in Paris and Shanghai, Production Type is a digital type design agency. Its activities span from the exclusive online distribution of its retail type for design professionals, to the creation of custom typefaces for the industrial, luxury, and media sectors.
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