Designer: Quentin Coulombier for Blaze Type
Release Date: February 2019
Back Story: Four years ago, Quentin Coulombier, a current ECAL student, was hanging out with friends in Brussels, Belgium, when he spotted a Zoo vinyl sleeve in a record shop. “I was fascinated by the shapes,” he says. “You just have two letters—the ‘z’ and ‘o’—so it’s more a logo where everything is happening in the middle of these big black surfaces.” From there, he set about designing the rest of the font, in what was to become his first ever typeface.
He adds, “The band was apparently famous in France in the 1970s as one of the first alternative jazz bands—they were a bit in shadows. It’s like type design—a discipline that people don’t often know about—so it goes hand-in-hand with reviving a font for a band no-one knows. It’s not like doing a revival of the Led Zeppelin logo.”
Zoo was picked up by Blaze Type founder Matthieu Salvaggio when he spotted Coulombier printing some “sketchy” proofs of Zoo in a print shop, and offered to release it once the foundry was set up a couple of years later.
What are its defining characteristics? Zoo boasts high contrasts, with a prominent mid section surrounded by chunky black shapes. “The letters create a sort of dancing typeface,” says Coulombier. “It’s really abstract, so with one letter alone it might not even look like a typeface. You know it’s a font when it’s around other letters, because of the context.” The font is available in its original condensed format, as well as an extended version to allow for more variation in text usage.
Why is it named Zoo? Well, as per the back story, the font is directly drawn from the French band Zoo’s graphics.
What should it be used for? Zoo is a big, bold, expressive display font. “It’s more graphic design than type design,” says Coulombier. “It’s really playful, and you can use it for graphic compositions as a strong main component for a poster, or maybe on a vinyl sleeve. It’s not really something you might usually just use for text.” As such, it’s a font for those designers who want to make an impact. “Just one letter on a poster can be enough,” says Coulombier.
What other typeface do you like to pair it with? As Zoo packs such a characterful punch, it’s best used with a Grotesk, or simple monospaced font, Coulombier advises.