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Haute Coiffure

Contributed by Christopher Bergmann on Feb 19th, 2018.
    Haute Coiffure
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    Many designers will probably consider this shopfront to be a type crime. The scene of the crime is in the Belgian city of Liège. The victim is Le Griffe, a typeface by André-Michel Lubac. As one of the winners of the 1973 Letraset International Typeface Competition, it was described as “an attempt at mechanically reproducible letterforms demonstrating the timeless qualities of pre-Gutenberg hand lettering” in the corresponding booklet.

    What happened? Part of good hand lettering is the contextual use of letterforms, including alternates that blend in with surrounding letters and the application of swashes in appropriate places. The ‘crime’ here is the use of swashes in places that could be seen as inappropriate. The ‘u’ glyph in ‘Haute’ with its rightward swash, for example, was appparently intended for use at the end of the word. The left-hand part of the (makeshift) ‘ff’ ligature, by contrast, looks like a variant for use at the beginning of the word. The effect of both appearing word-internally is that they break the narrow rhythm of the typeface. The duplicate use of the same ‘e’ variant with a rightward swash also backfires: Instead of making the line look more like skilled handwriting, it exposes the reproducible nature of the characters.

    However, this specific setting is not as easily reproducible as you may think: The only digital version of this typeface I am aware of does not include all of the swashes seen here. The ‘u’ with a rightward swash seems to be missing and I am not sure if the ‘f’ with a leftward swash connects as nicely with the normal ‘f’ as it does here. So even if we scoff at the incompetent use of swashes, we have to concede that the sign itself is probably unique.

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