Beaux Arts Didot for House Industries – Photo-Lettering Inc
The unusual story of Beaux-Arts Didot begins with a French Modern design from the mid 1800s that was adjusted to North American tastes of the 1970s, as seen through the eyes of a French typeface designer in 2015.
Beaux-Arts Didot was produced between 1950 and 1958 at Photo-Lettering, Inc. during a time when fine and fancy Didots were en vogue. Typefaces like CBS Didot and Pistilli Roman were warmly received by the lavish flamboyance of New York’s ’70s design scene.
While many aspects of Beaux-Arts Didot were provided by the film found in Photo-Lettering’s vast catalog, reviving Beaux-Arts Didot required some heuristic scouting through various foundries of the 19th century. There are subtle differences between French Didones, British Moderns and Anglo-Saxon Scotches. Beaux-Arts Didot has a bit of all these flavours. Jean-Baptiste Levée sought inspiration from a range of French sources, including Fonderie Bertrand (one of the successors of the Didots), Fonderie Thorey & Virey, and Fonderie Turlot, the then-champion of fancy French Moderns. But he looked to England as well: Moderns from Vincent Figgins and the Stephenson & Blake foundry were scavenged to give Beaux-Arts Didot a cosmopolitan complexion.
Not only is this new Beaux-Arts Didot a multicultural design, but so is its usage potential. The limited character set of the original was expanded to a wider, more global toolkit that embraces current contemporary practices, with language support, monetary and math supplements, and sophisticated symbols additions. Levée mined history to percolate the most relevant design features, reinstating Beaux-Arts Didot as an alluring “grande dame”.