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Cité internationale de la langue française – Château de Villers-Cotterêts

The Cité Internationale de la langue française, located in the Château de Villers-Cotterêts, is a cultural hub dedicated to celebrating the French language through cinema, writing, literature, and theater. For this key cultural achievement of the 2020 decade, Production Type incorporated innovative typography inspired by Geoffroy Tory, contributing a modern twist to the rich history of the French language and its visual appearance.

  • Client

    Centre des Monuments Nationaux

  • Design

    Jean-Baptiste Levée

  • Team

    Hugues Gentile, Marion Sendral, Igino Marini.

  • Visual identity, logotype, applications:


  • Awards

    2022 European Design Awards — Gold for ChevalVert (Printed Identity Applications)

The first place dedicated to the French language, through cinema, writing, literature, and theater, the Cité Internationale de la langue française is a lively environment, with artists and authors in residence in 12 workshops, an auditorium, educational activities and workshops for associations.
The Cité (city) is housed in the Château de Villers-Cotterêts, acquired by the State in 2014 for the symbolic sum of one euro. In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron mandated the Centre des Monuments nationaux (CMN) to renovate the historic site, which was in a poor state of repair, and establish this project around the French language.
The building, commissioned by king Francis I and built in the middle of the 16th century, was the site of the signing of the Villers-Cotterêts Ordinance in 1539. This established French as the official language of law and administration, replacing Latin. It is also the oldest piece of legislation still in force in France. Architecturally, The Château de Villers-Cotterêts is a fine example of the early French Renaissance. It combines medieval elements, such as its defensive towers, with Renaissance features, including mullioned windows and decorative carvings.
The Cité internationale de la langue française is expected to contribute to the attractiveness of the Valois region, a literary birthplace of writers such as Alexandre Dumas, born in Villers-Cotterêts; Jean Racine, who hails from La Ferté-Milon; Jean de la Fontaine, born in Château-Thierry, and Paul Claudel, born in Villeneuve-sur-Fère.
In 1549, ten years after the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, Joachim du Bellay published his “Défense et Illustration de la langue française”. But it was as early as in 1529 that typographer and master printer Geoffroy Tory completed his “Champfleury”, or “L'Art et la science de la vraye proportion des lettres attiques” (The Art and science of the true proportion of antique letters). And in literary and administrative life, Latin gave way to French.
Rather than focusing directly on Claude Garamont, the ubiquitous superstar of the time, Production Type broke new ground and dwelled on Tory, a most verbose literary corollary, who left us the first works on modernizing the French language, promoting semicolons, apostrophes and circumflex accents, and the typefaces to compose them. As typography takes much longer than language, a new digital typeface takes up the eternal canons of the classic Renaissance types, brought to us by Tory, architect of the French language and its orthotypography. As an epitome and canon of editorial typography, this new alphabet contains a crispness and briskness of strokes that were designed to be lively and sharp. And yet, the mood of the text is elegant and serene.
This modern contribution is twofold: firstly, to the classic crucible of a serif typeface, Production Type added a technology layer that allows dynamic variation of the designs and weights, while controlling their appearance. This pseudovariable typeface is reactive to its environment and to interaction with the reader. Second, a series of sans serif typefaces completes the palette.
Bypassing the pitfalls of flat syncretism, the result is a typographic, linguistic, and textual object that moves, lives, and breathes. The Château becomes the rightful owner of the typefaces, but it’s the visitor-reader who becomes the master, in a jointly generous and popular dynamic.

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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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