LV Clémence addresses the stylistic requirements of the Louis Vuitton magazine design while serving crisp titling on the publication’s slick coated paper. The typeface is a slab serif design with an extended width that allows headlines to stretch across spreads. It has features typical of the Clarendon classification, with frank and large square serifs and an almost monolinear contrast. Conceived with the idea of turning this single-style typeface into a more complete system, LV Clémence extends to companion Light and Extra Light styles. The italic is a more open interpretation, as relevant sources in this genre are uncommon. With curved-up details, they steer away from the relative stiffness of the romans, and they feature prominent ball terminals which give words a staccato flair.
LV Clémence is Jean-Baptiste Levée’s take on a type style that has been long known under the name of Hellenic Wide. The original design dates back beyond 1881 and is sometimes attributed to one of the Bauer foundries of Germany, and was later imported to France and the US. The name “Hellenic Wide” itself is one of many by which the typeface was known, as it was common practice to rename the designs according to the preferences of the local market. For this reason, we find it under names such as “Égyptienne Élargie” (Cochard & David, France, 1881, and Georges Peignot, France, 1905), “Antique Extended” (or “Expanded”) (Bruce, USA, 1882), Ionic Expanded (Miller & Richard, Great Britain), “Initiales Égyptiennes Larges” (Van Loey–Nouri, Belgium, 1909), “Égyptienne Maigre Écrasée” (Mayeur, France, 1911) etc*. Apparently, Hellenic Wide only gained recognition in the 1920s, once it was merged into the American Type Founders’ combined catalog. From then on, it would become synonymous with Northern American vintage style, and, despite having only one weight, it was widely accepted.
LV Loys Sans Condensed is a single-weight sans serif design that flexes three different uppercase heights: normal full height, an intermediate height between uppercase and lowercase, and a “unicase” height aligned with the lowercase. The purpose of this unusual feature is to allow for various uppercase/small cap mixes, with effects ranging from basic all-caps to more engaging settings. A mix of the three heights can be used within a short sentence, allowing for the harmonious mingling of sizes without having to resort to scaling. LV Loys is a typical late 19-century French Gothic, with a few distinctive details: the spur on the tip of the ‘G’ and numeral ‘1’ is also found as a tail on the Q; and the unusual numeral ‘5’ and ‘t’ with its curved top reveal the type’s distant origins in the Modern serif.
The idea of mixing multiple heights on a single line is historically common in stationery. Foundries would cast all-caps on the same body height, sometimes centering the letters instead of aligning them on the baseline. All capital styles of LV Loys Sans Condensed are fully multiplexed (each glyph has the same width across the styles) — a feature that required a very careful kerning process to work efficiently.
Art direction: Yorgo Tloupas
Typeface design: Jean-Baptiste Levée. Team: Emmanuel Besse, Yoann Minet. Images: Julien Lelièvre.
* Research has shown, so far:
“Égyptienne Élargie” (Cochard & David, France, 1881, and Georges Peignot, France, 1905)
“Antique Extended” (or “Expanded”) (Johnson, USA, 1857, and Bruce, USA, 1869)
“Extended Skeleton” (Figgins, Great Britain, 1874)
“Ionic Expanded” (Miller & Richard, Great Britain)
“Initiales Égyptiennes Larges” (Van Loey–Nouri, Belgium, 1909)
“Égyptienne Maigre Écrasée” (Mayeur, France, 1911)
(Thanks to Tobias Frere-Jones for the help.)