Backstory: In 2015, the Paris-based type designer Sandrine Nugue was commissioned by graphic designer Thanh Phong Lê to create a typeface for new student accommodations in Roubaix, France. As this wayfinding typeface would be painted onto the new building’s interior and exterior walls, it was obvious from the get-go that it needed to be a stencil. Beyond that, Nugue had no other constraints—so she experimented with dramatic, direct geometric forms to create something purposefully simplified but with a playful twist.
These days, typefaces designed for print often get used for signage, but it’s very rare for a typeface designed for signage to later be used for print and screen contexts. Yet with its recent release for general use with Commercial Type, this is exactly the unconventional route Orientation has taken. And as of last month, the typeface has received the Certificate of Type excellence at TDC.
Why’s it called Orientation? Put simply, it’s because it was created for wayfinding and it allows students to “orientate” themselves. “When you hear it, you immediately understand that it’s there to help you find your way,” says Nugue. “And the word ‘orientation’ works well in both French and in English.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? It’s a direct typeface without many details other than its striking slanted cut. Like Nugue’s last typeface Infini, Orientation contains no extraneous curves. It’s a geometric face and it packs a punch in order to reflect the brutalist-informed architecture of the building it’s placed on top of. It’s also chunky and weighty, anchored down like a heavy brick. The strips that segment the stencil letterforms for stabilization are sliced in elegant V formations, adding an unexpected twist to the functional stencils found on the likes of transport crates, containers, and industrial signs.
“I also played with the typeface’s legibility,” says Nugue. “Some letters on their own can be abstract, but when they’re composed as a word, it becomes readable. I developed the family with light and bold versions for this particular intention.”
What should I use it for? As a display typeface that has a bold, loud identity, Orientation could work on posters or book covers, especially for design work that promotes architectural projects. One of its first uses was for a hotel identity by Parisian design studio Solide. Ultimately, Orientation is very flexible: it’s been used for both headlines in magazines and an identity for a sport events.
What should I pair it with? As Orientation is so geometric and bold, it can work with both serif or sans serif. “But nothing too sophisticated or loud,” says Nugue. “Otherwise that will be too much of a firework.”