Photo by Tom Lagast Architectural lettering is a tricky thing. Since I participated to type walks with Catherine Dixon and Phil Baines on two occasions – ATypI Lisbon in 2006 and ATypI Brighton in 2007 – I’ve come to appreciate the integration of type and lettering in architecture a lot more, and became aware of what the requirements are to have it succeed. For both type walks I was part of the group led by Phil Baines. You really notice he teaches, and I mean this in a good way. He is an outstanding guide, very knowledgeable and fun to listen to. And what’s more important – after such a type walk you possess enough basic knowledge to be able to assess architectural lettering independently.
Photo by Tom Lagast This is why at my last visit of Bookshop Walry I was not only struck by the beautiful renovation by EGUS architecten en ingenieurs, but also immediately noticed the elegant lettering on the walls. The work done by Egus is impressive. In January 2008 Walry was voted fifth in a poll for the favourite bookshop in Belgium by the readers and staff of national newspaper De Standaard. The sole less favourable remark was that the shop was in need of renovation. Exactly four months later a completely overhauled Walry reopened.
Photo by Tom Lagast If I were better versed in architecture I’d give a review of the bookshop itself, praising the feeling of space and light that now pervades the shop, and the classy black metal and warm dark wood finish made of alternating strips (I know so little I haven’t got a clue what they are called).
Photo by Tom Lagast Yet I know enough of typography that I immediately recognised Filosofia had been used to apply lettering on the walls, to locate the different genres in the bookshop. Filosofia is Zuzana Licko’s interpretation of that classic amongst classics – Bodoni. Massimo Vignelli stated “It’s Their Bodoni” on the poster he designed for Emigré to announce its release in 1996. On that poster Zuzana explains that Filosofia is her interpretation of a Bodoni. It shows her personal preference for a geometric Bodoni, while incorporating such features as the slightly bulging round serif endings which often appeared in printed samples of Bodoni’s work and reflect Bodoni’s origins in letterpress technology. The regular weights are somewhat rugged with reduced contrast to withstand the reduction to text sizes, while the Grand versions were specifically designed for display use.
The lettering in Walry was designed by Flemish graphic designer Kris Demey. He has been working as an independent designer since 1996 under the moniker “Paardekracht” (Horsepower). Describing himself as a “thinking graphic designer”, he specialises in book design, cultural promotion design, theatre and museum graphics. For example no less than four of the ten covers selected by the jury for the Audience Award for the Best Book Cover at the recent Plantin-Moretus Awards for Best Designed Books 2009were designed by him.
Kris Demey was commissioned by Paul Luyten, owner of Walry. They collaborated previously, long before the renovation, amongst others on the Walry website, and Demey also designed all communication for the renovation. I asked Luyten whether Demey had received carte blanche or not. P A U L L U Y T E N “A lot that can be said about the collaboration between client and architect, or client and graphic designer. It is a complex relationship. In brief this is how I view it – as a client I try to be well prepared when I approach the designer. Often I have already invested a good deal of time and thought in the project. This allows me to formulate clearly what I need, what I am looking for. I always strive to be as clear as possible, and as soon as I am confident that the designer perfectly understands what I’m aiming at, I let go. Then it becomes his or her job to surprise me, to delight me. That’s why I always am very curious to discover how the designer handles the assignment.”
Kris Demey joined the project from the very beginning. K R I S D E M E Y “Paul Luyten, the owner of Boekhandel Walry, was planning to thoroughly renovate his shop. This was a perfect opportunity to take a look at the corporate style as well. An elaborate study of the logo was made, with a number of radically new proposals, as well as a couple of updates of the existing logo. Eventually the latter option was preferred, to ensure the continuation of the atmosphere and reliability the shop has stood for all those years.
The collaboration with both the client and the architects was very smooth. From the onset I was given access to the renovation plans, and there were a couple of meetings with client and architects. As a result all the concerned parties had a perfect view on colours, textures, and materials.”
“The genre indications are made out of laser-cut foil, in a very dark brown that matches the furniture in which the books are presented. I looked for the perfect balance between well visible/readable and aesthetic subtlety.
A curved steel plate with built-in lighting was installed above the front desk. The logo was cut into the curve; a technique we also used for the steel dividers that alphabetically separate the books in the book shelves.”
Kris Demey had to create a custom version Filosofia for those dividers. K R I S D E M E Y “I made the stencil version myself, after consulting with the person who would cut the letters out of the steel. You can’t just remove the counterforms from the letters without destroying the character of the typeface. I slightly adapted the contours, adding subtle joins that keep the counterforms in place. Those joins were made as fine as possible, and were executed very accurately by the steel worker.”
“I selected Filosofia because its classical shapes on the one hand perfectly match the timeless character of Bookshop Walry, and on the other hand emanate a slender, contemporary freshness. The extended family with its elegant italic variant also creates numerous possibilities with regards to all kinds of communication for the shop. Initially I chose it for its atmosphere. Preserving the finesse of the letters in their steel counterparts was not easy. We could have opted for a sans serif for the steel dividers, but this would’ve proved to be an unacceptable change of style.”
The lettering is beautifully integrated in the interior of the bookshop, and does an exquisite job pointing out the different sections. The words in capitals are well sized, delicately spaced, and nicely positioned within the architectural context. The cut-out letters in the steel dividers interact dynamically with the book spines. When changing your viewpoint you see the vertical colour bands alter the appearance of the letters.
Kris Demey is very happy with the results. K R I S D E M E Y “The juxtaposition between the elegant Filosofia and the hard steel produces an interesting tension. And the character of the graphic identity is nicely sustained even in the smallest of details.”
Bookshop Walry turns 30 this year (Paul Luyten took over the shop from Jenny Walry in 1979). Starting in September there will be a campaign lasting ten weeks, where every three weeks three new books are offered at a 30% price reduction.
Boekhandel Walry Zwijnaardsesteenweg 6 9000 Gent, Belgium T 09 222 91 67 F 09 221 03 56 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wonderful concept! But I have to be a bit critical of the execution: although it is quite small in the image it looks as if (esp.) SPAANS FRANS ITALIAANS have not been spaced very well.
Working with all caps is difficult -- everything has to be handadjusted and production and application are critical phases, where exact examples for the people involved are of paramount importance. Maybe that's where it went wrong...
I DO love the stencil version. Very well executed. Were the dividers lasered, cnc'd or waterjetted?
29.07.2009 - 15.17.46
Posted by Bert Vanderveen
I've directed Kris Demey to this article and hope he will be able to answer your questions. And the apparent spacing problems in the picture didn't strike me in the shop. Maybe it has to do with the serifs being barely visible due to the relatively low resolution.
04.08.2009 - 22.12.40
Posted by Yves Peters a.k.a. Unzipper
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