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  • Serena Kramer

Roger Excoffon — the Type Designer Who Brought Calligraphy to Modern Typography

Updated: Aug 29, 2023


Did you know that Roger Excoffon used his knowledge of calligraphy in his typography? Excoffon believed that typography should be expressive and dynamic, and his hand-drawn typefaces are a testament to his creative vision. So, who is this guy?!


The Nitty Gritty

Roger Excoffon (born March 7, 1910, died March 1, 1983) was a French graphic designer and type designer who revolutionized the use of calligraphy in typography. Excoffon's work was highly recognized in Paris, and he was known for his approach to typography. He used calligraphy as a tool to create unique typefaces for a range of disciplines from corporate branding to magazine pages. One of his most famous but also overused and abused typefaces was Mistral, created in the 1950s for the French Linotype organization. Excoffon's personal handwriting is reflected in Mistral's design.


Roger Excoffon Mistral 1953 / Source: http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-26357.html

One of my preferred typefaces is Diane, which was launched in 1956, approximately at the same period as his better-known Mistral. In 2008, Mark Simonson and Mark Solsburg digitally resurrected Diane as DianeScript.


Book: Club de la femme / Source: www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Étienne Pouvreau and tagged with “diane”. License: CC BY. Roger Excoffons’s Diane for Le Mépris by Alberto Moravia, 1964.

Mark Solsburg Mark Simonson Diane Script 2008 / Source: http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-26357.html

Excoffon's other typefaces, such as Calypso, also showcased his broad-nibbed calligraphic style. Calypso is an experimental display typeface with curvaceous and alluring features that could be likened to pop art. Using a pair of compasses, every character was meticulously hand-drawn dot by dot.


Roger Excoffon Calypso / Source: http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-26357.html


Excoffon aimed to give his typography a sense of humanity and personality without sacrificing legibility and practicality. He wanted people to appreciate his lettering and understand the message it conveyed. His works included animated shorts, corporate branding materials, posters, and outdoor advertising campaigns.


Roger Excoffon's contribution to typography demonstrates that innovation and creativity require hard work, discipline, and imagination. He remains an inspiration to aspiring designers worldwide, and his legacy lives on through the continued use of his typefaces. Excoffon's focus on using calligraphy to create fonts that catered to the specific requirements of clients remains an exceptional feature of his work. His work continues to flourish and inspire designers today.



 

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