In defence of Mistral.

Just popping in to say… “Don’t judge a typeface by its cover”.

“[Mistral] is a font created to exemplify everything sophisticated and elegant about postwar France. Yet over the course of the 21st century, Mistral has become positively unmoored a font just as likely to be used on a cheap tube of lip gloss or the flickering neon sign of an Amsterdam porn shop as it is on the label of your sandals, or the side of your uncle’s yacht…

Malou Velomme, type designer at Monotype, tells me that while Mistral would be “fairly simple” to reproduce in an era of computer-driven type design tools, “you have to see the actual pieces of metal type to understand how brilliant Excoffon’s design really is. Roger Excoffon managed to put a very casual energy and speed in a connecting script, seemingly making the metal type limitations disappear.”

It’s a point reiterated by almost everyone I spoke to: Mistral is a miracle of hot type. To see something as fluid and alive as Excoffon’s letters imbued in blocks of hard metal is the letterpress equivalent of watching a school of porpoises playfully swimming through a block of solid steel. Or, as legendary type designer Erik Spiekermann told me, “It is totally amazing. How did Excoffon manage to make a hard metal look so casual?”

You should read the whole thing, including that deep link to the world of Comic Papyrus (wow) . I’m actually now wondering if there are more typographical blights I wouldn’t hate so much if I knew how much care and art had gone into creating them.

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