Designer: Clément Le Tulle-Neyret
Release Date: Immortel represents an ongoing endeavor; in April, a rough early version was used in the third issue of Sottises Magazine. The type family is due to be completed around March 2018.
Back Story: Immortel is a part of a research project developed at l’Atelier National de Recherche Typographique (ANRT), a Nancy school dedicated to typographic creation. Immortel questions how textual content can be expressed by letterforms, those smallest units of communication. You may be familiar with Beatrice Warde’s “crystal goblet” theory from 1930: type should be an invisible or transparent container for content so as to communicate ideas without calling attention to itself. A major quibble with that argument is that type always communicates something by the way it looks, even BEFORE a reader can process what the words mean. Type’s appearance generates an emotional reaction in advance of its function as information conveyance. “Immortel tries to combine a systematic and long-lasting function with a more organic and specific one,” says Le Tulle-Neyret. “The family will have three different versions designed to serve different content, since every text is seen as much as it is read.”
One version is meant to complement Georges Perec’s L’infra-ordinaire, a reflection on the mundane things that are essential signs of our everyday life. A second font still in progress relates to a text about the famous Albrecht Dürer 1514 engraving Melancholia 1, and a third version will be fine-tuned to suit a text about the work of mid-20th century British figurative painter Francis Bacon.
Why’s it called Immortel? There are two reasons: one, its starting point was an elegant 1559 typeface, Immortelle, a Long Primer Italic by influential French punchcutter Robert Granjon. The second, more metaphysical reason is that many later typefaces were influenced (either directly or indirectly) by those created in 16th-century France. “The letters became shapes of ephemeral memories, themselves memories of older shapes…It may sound pretentious to call your typeface ‘immortal,’ but I like the idea of eternal, long-lasting physical things or memories,” Le Tulle-Neyret says.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? The first version has a classic x-height to suit running texts from 8 to 14 points; long, thin diacritics; and light punctuation characters. All of the dot-related punctuation glyphs and uppercase forms are just a bit heavier. It also features a fairly low apostrophe inspired by the fonts of Pierre Haultin, another 16th-century French punchcutter.
What should I use it for? “If we follow the logic of the project rigidly, it should not be used for anything else than the content it was originally designed for,” says Le Tulle-Neyret. “But, in a general sense, it’s intended for immersive, long-form reading.”
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Le Tulle-Neyret matched the first version featured in Sottises Magazine with Stratos by Yoann Minet. He says, “I chose Stratos Medium because its strong color and brutal shapes leave space for Immortel’s subtle and classic voice.”