The New York Times just published a highly recommendable and richly illustrated article about “The Mystery Font That Took Over New York”. Art director (and Fonts In Use contributor) Rumsey Taylor pursues the question “how […] Choc, a quirky calligraphic typeface drawn by a French graphic designer in the 1950s, end[ed] up on storefronts everywhere”. Taylor noticed that Roger Excoffon’s energetic bold script is particularly popular with Asian restaurants.
This could have to do with what Choc evokes. For some it bears a resemblance to the calligraphic forms of Asian writing systems. […] And just as pizzerias favor color schemes that recall the Italian flag, or how the names of Irish pubs rely on Gaelic-looking letters, Choc has come to signify Asia. […]
There’s no denying that Choc has become a typographical shorthand for Asian-themed restaurants. Imagine a sushi bar adorned in Helvetica, and it may not seem as authentic, or as appetizing.
“Having been used for a particular purpose,” said Mr. Frere-Jones, referring to the contemporary applications of Excoffon’s typefaces, “it starts to take on a bit of that association, which encourages that association to be repeated, which just makes it stronger.”
I have nothing to add to this spot-on observation of the mechanisms that impact vernacular font use, except maybe that the phenomenon is not limited to New York. Shown here is a snapshot from Munich, Germany. Nam’s Sushi & Asia Imbiss pairs Choc with another typeface created by Excoffon, namely Banco, which, according to Taylor, “can justly be described as ‘shouty,’ composed entirely of letters that resemble exclamation marks.”