Printania for Printemps department stores

15/04/2015

Printania is a set of 21 fonts for the Printemps department stores, commissioned on occasion of their 150th anniversary.

Printemps department stores celebrated their 150th anniversary with an exclusive typeface connecting the company with its history. Dubbed Printania, Jean-Baptiste Levée and Yoann Minet designed the face based on the famous mosaic lettering on the Printemps building’s front. First installed in 1883, the original “AU PRINTEMPS” employed several variants between 1910 and 1924, but they shared common characteristics: all-caps sans-serif letters, a splayed ‘M’, high-waisted ‘P’ and ‘R’, and a raw geometric construction without optical corrections.

While these unconventional characteristics may be considered somewhat awkward to modern eyes, Levée emphasized them in Printania, giving it a distinctive look that honors the company’s past while distinguishing it from the rest of the market. The typeface also references vernacular lettering, found type, and urban epigraphy from the period, as well as advertising from the 1930s. Printania is further distinguished by small, sharp serifs, a familiar trait in architectural lettering, but much less common in typography. This style gained some interest during the ’70s, with faces such as ITC Elan or ITC Serif Gothic, but isn’t seen in many other typefaces. Extracted from archival material, Printania Petit Serif follows Printania Sans very closely. The atypical italics of both families have a very slight slant and narrow proportion.

Alongside Printania, FutureBrand Paris developed a new Printemps identity which utilizes the typeface extensively, including signage, advertising, and publications.

Visual identity: FutureBrand, Paris.
Typeface design: Jean-Baptiste Levée.
Team: Yoann Minet. Images: Julien Lelièvre.