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Live the Language: Paris

EF conveys the spirit of language and culture with type.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Apr 7th, 2011. Artwork published in 2011.

As an educational corporation willing to invest in beautiful things to promote their language courses around the world, EF (Education First) is a typographer’s dream client. Albin Holmqvist was the lucky designer to take on their latest campaign, letting type do the talking in four short films produced by Swedish firm Camp David. The videos romanticize Paris, Barcelona, Beijing, and London in a genuinely sweet way, showcasing their respective languages with simple, pitch-perfect typographic overlays.

Holmqvist made great typeface choices in each of the films, but I think Paris got the best treatment. The opening title (see video above) is set in a very obvious Parisian, but it sets the tone so perfectly.



Patterned after the lettering of an American architect Neutraface isn’t necessarily French, but its quaint italic and deco-inspired lines certainly feel appropriate. Homqvist embellished the face in subsequent titles, adding decorative frames and shadows.

Like we’ve shown before, Brothers is a quintessential vintage sign font. Its chamfered corners are as at home on a baker’s storefront as they are on the butcher’s. For the French shop, though, Holmqvist employed the alternate set of Brothers with its charming kick of the ‘R’ and curved crossbars (see ‘A’).

Contorting type into a predetermined shape, especially with a curve, is a dangerous game. Many of us remember the horrors of Type Twister’s heyday. Professional hand lettering is the way to do this right. But if you’re going to do it with type, you can make distortions less obvious by keeping the curves gentle and using a font that draws less attention to the cap- and baseline. Here, the condensed Regency Gothic withstands the bends well.

Mr. Dafoe, one of the more lively scripts in Alejandro Paul’s Bluemlein Collection, reflects a vibrant produce market. This is how tomatoes were advertised — back when people could use a brush.


25 Comments on “Live the Language: Paris”

  1. Tom says:
    Apr 8th, 2011  6:17 am
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    I love this so much! These videos and especially the Paris one have inspired me to focus even closer to the type I use. Love it!

  2. Apr 8th, 2011  9:49 am
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    Thank you for this lovely write-up!

    If anyone has any questions, shoot!

  3. Rodrigo says:
    Apr 8th, 2011  10:10 am
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    This is great! I was dying to know the exact fonts behind this videos. Are you planning to do an insight on the other videos from the series?

  4. Andy says:
    Apr 9th, 2011  7:44 am
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    Fantastic campaign. Really enjoy the atmosphere created in each piece. Perhaps the type/narrative used in the London ad isn't as robust as the others, and this seems to detract a little from the overall vibe. I would agree with Stephen however, I think Holmqvist really nails it with the Parisian ad, everything just seems to come together.

  5. Andy says:
    Apr 9th, 2011  8:23 am
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    Also, just noticed - whats with the bookshop scene (again in the London ad) Steinbeck, Poe and Melville were all American, Melville specifically characterised the great american writer. There are host of other writers that are synonymous with British culture - Dickens, Agatha Christie, C. S Lewis, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Orwell... Dare I say it Shakespeare. Why were these missed out. Maybe picking at the details here - so I apologise. Just interested to know if this aspect of it was considered.

  6. Albin says:
    Apr 9th, 2011  9:14 pm
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    Andy, we've got this comment before. Granted most of the authors are indeed American, I do think that our director Gustav Johansson was making more of a reference to the "bookshop culture" in general that exists in London than British authors, per se.

    Good looking out!

    Cheers!

  7. Andy says:
    Apr 10th, 2011  6:15 am
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    All classics though, and their names look good in the type! Sorry to have been picking the details. Its great to such a refreshingly simple, well executed campaign. Congrats.

  8. Apr 11th, 2011  8:56 am
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    Andy, detailpicking rules! Thanks for the feedback and nice words!

  9. Simon says:
    Apr 11th, 2011  10:52 pm
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    This was a very well executed design which I think is already influencing others! Well done. And great write-up.

  10. Luke says:
    Apr 13th, 2011  7:36 pm
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    Thanks for this post! The Paris version is gorgeous. What is the tiny typeface used in the translation below? It pairs really well with the wide range of lettering.

  11. Apr 14th, 2011  12:56 am
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    It's something with phonetic characters, such as Europa Grotesk Phonetic or Phonetica, both based on Helvetica. Albin?

  12. Apr 14th, 2011  3:13 am
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    The phonetic script is good ole' Helvetica Neue! Probably the easiest of all the type-choices, as it is the mid-grey of typefaces, goes well with everything!

  13. Melissa says:
    Apr 14th, 2011  11:58 am
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    Hey Albin, I was just wondering if all of these were shot on location or not. Stunning video.

  14. Apr 15th, 2011  3:03 am
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    Melissa: Yes, all the videos are shot on their respective locations! Thanks!

  15. Paul says:
    Apr 15th, 2011  11:48 am
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    Really nice work! can I ask what typeface was used for the words 'DE VIVRE LA LANGUE' works really well with the Parisian type.

  16. Apr 16th, 2011  7:17 am
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    Thanks Paul! The complimentary typeface in the intro composition is Garamond!

  17. Bryan says:
    Apr 25th, 2011  12:15 am
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    Beautiful! Hey Albin, what font did you use for "Etudier" and "dans le parc"?

  18. Apr 25th, 2011  6:43 am
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    Bryan > It's the House Holiday Script!

  19. Bryan says:
    Apr 25th, 2011  11:49 am
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    Albin: Actually, it's SignPainter House Casual! Love the upright script. Thanks anyway =)

  20. Apr 26th, 2011  8:56 am
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    Bryan; My bad, you're correct! Am i starting to forget stuff at 28? Is that some kind of record?

  21. Ailish Lydon says:
    May 18th, 2011  7:59 pm
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    How sweet! I was waiting for the 'l'amour' though ;)

  22. Paul says:
    Sep 13th, 2011  2:15 pm
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    Hello, great post about fantastic work. Can someone please identify a font used on the Vancouver version of this series, specifically the font used for the word 'Vancouver' http://vimeo.com/28821354 thank you.

  23. Sep 13th, 2011  3:12 pm
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    That's good ol’ Trade Gothic with a bit of added weight.

  24. Tom says:
    Dec 2nd, 2011  10:32 am
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    Amazing work. Is the frame around 'Paris' and the icon of the Eifel Tower custom made?

  25. Wonchan Lee says:
    Jan 27th, 2012  2:04 am
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    I love the whole series. Like someone said earlier, it'd be awesome if you're planning to do other videos as well. BTW, does anyone know what camera was used for the video? I'm thinking it might be Canon 5D mark II. Any clue?

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