19 April 2011
Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes deep in the archives: Antique Olive
Roger Excoffon’s Antique Olive (1962-66) is a perfect example of a typeface that has suffered from its context. It is by no means a bad design – in fact, it is a brilliant piece of work – but it has become so over-used (and often badly) that it is ripe for rediscovery, wrote Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes in Eye 75.
Top: page from Fonderie Olive’s Antique Olive specimen.
In a deliberate reaction to the evenness of Univers and Haas Grotesk, Excoffon emphasised each letter’s unique character, demonstrating in the process how a cohesive and highly legible whole can be made up of unusual parts (‘a’ and ‘t’ are quite distinctive, but even the ‘O’ is strange – the type has a top-heavy feel). Gerard Unger once noted that Excoffon’s typefaces became a de facto corporate identity for twentieth-century France, and even though Air France recently retired his logo, his mark on the French visual environment is still highly visible.
Above: Antique Olive first specimen, front cover, 1960.
Below: Back page advertisement published in Caractère, no. 6-7, May-June 1968.
For new discoveries about Roger Excoffon’s typefaces for Fonderie Olive, see Sébastien Morlighem’s article ‘Mr Mistral’ in our latest type special Eye 79.
Read ‘Deep in the Archives’ by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes in Eye 75, Spring 2010.
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. The latest issue is Eye 79, a type special.