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“Memorial”, a typeface for Shoah Memorial’s Wall Of Names

For the renovated Wall Of Names inside Paris’ Shoah Memorial, Production Type devised a digital stone letter. Adaptive and robust, it is designed to help remember the 76,000 names for the coming decades.

The Shoah Memorial in Paris is a remembrance site for the Jewish genocide. The site hosts a museum and a documentation center, and several places of contemplation: the Crypt, the Wall of the Righteous, the Children’s Memorial, and the Wall of Names.

The Wall of Names

The Wall of Names is a 115sqm architectural installation engraved with the names of 75,568 Jews — including 11,400 children — who were deported from France, with the Vichy government’s collaboration, as part of the Nazi plan to destroy the Jews of Europe. The first Wall was inaugurated in 2005. The archive service of the Memorial regularly conducts update campaigns which consist of corrections and additions. Names are cut in Jerusalem stone slates, sorted by year, from 1942 to 1944, and by alphabetical order, marked with drop caps.

The project

In January 2014, the Shoah Memorial commissioned the agency Designers Unit to completely overhaul the inscriptions and their typesetting. After the updating campaigns of 2007 and 2013, the visual and aesthetic aspect of the wall had suffered from multiple discrepancies: omissions of course, but also typos, duplicates, and errors in dates.
The Wall itself is cut in Jerusalem stone, a variety of pale limestone common in and around Jerusalem. The non-homogenous surface and its porosity, while being acceptable for architectural purposes, make the cutting of letters a difficult task. The study noted that the combination of this uneven stone, the sandblasting method used to cut it, and the typeface itself, obscured the purpose of the wall. The names were initially typeset in Frutiger 57 Condensed, with amounts of deformation and mechanical condensation from 90% to 105% to make it fit. Due to the sandblasting process, the lettershapes appear rounded and the acute angles clogged. The dates were typeset in fixed-width figures at a smaller nominal size and appeared lighter.

The typeface

Production Type determined the specifications for a new typeface for the typesetting of the Wall of Names with width variations of ±7.5% at constant weight, a height of the numerals between upper- and lowercases, both variable and fixed numeral widths (depending on the position in the line of text), a set of ligatures and digraphs, two optical sizes, dynamically aligned bullets and separators, and the addition of light traps and ink traps to compensate for the damages of sandblasting.
The result, Memorial, is a low-contrast, slightly flared, triangular serif variable face, designed to activate automatic shaping features when coupled with a name & dates database. The updated Wall of Names now contains about 80,000 names.

Facts and figures

· 75,568 names, 1.7 million characters;
· 357 patronyms per slate, 120-160 characters per line (±12.5% width variation / 25% span);
· 224 slates (100 kg each, total 22.4 tons and 115 sqm tiling;
· 1/10th of mm cutting depth;
· Names cap height: 9.11 mm ( x-height: 6.74mm). Drop caps height: 40 mm.
Wherever possible, we have chosen not to display the actual names as featured in the Wall. For illustration purposes, fictional content is used.
  • Client

    Shoah Memorial, Paris

  • Art direction

    Emmanuel Labard, Jean-Baptiste Levée

  • Type design

    Hugues Gentile

  • Graphic design & typesetting

    Designers Unit, Emmanuel Labard

  • Architecture

    Cabinet Pascal Hofstein

  • Engineering


  • Database automation

    Vincent Pelletier

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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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