Contemporary type design taken from the past viable forms. For example, in the thirties, futura was a sober version of the Bauhaus experimental typefaces. In France, it found an easy market throught Deberny & Peignot under the name of europe. The instigator of this purchase – Maximilien Vox – added to europe a decorative version, with double widths called Banjo; from this starting point Jean François Porchez created his typeface Anisette.

Anisette font designed by Jean Francois Porchez, Typofonderie, 1996
Image of Anisette specimen, 1999.

Typefaces are a manifestation & a reflection of social communication & the cultural conditions of their period. Their subtle variations throughout history are as complex as the social conditions that produced them. The only forms used in banjo are the Roman capitals forms that we endlessly recycle with or without serifs.

Anisette Story

You can only see the personnality of typographic forms when you insert them in the long evolution of forms. For instance, some arguments used in the specimen of Banjo (1933) can also be used for Anisette: “The typeface which will enable modern typography to find again the decorative style… Such a typeface was missing for competing with lettering; flexibility of widths–large & narrow letters used alternatively.” Such aesthetic principle has already been used (in 1911) for the ultra-large & ultra condensed Bellery-Desfontaine typeface. It had fallen into disuse until the creation of banjo.

The lettering argument you can find in the slogan ‘do you have a good lettering artist? If you don’t, the typeface you need is Banjo’ proves the existence of a link with the very contrasted drawings (black & thin faces) used before Hergé (Tintin & Milou) by Beardsley, Poiret, Iribe, Vox & a few others. It derives from the English Modern style & the thirties French Art Déco, then the artists liked to design their own titles for their illustrations which where published in luxurious magazines.

Anisette font designed by Jean Francois Porchez, Typofonderie, 1995
Original Anisette specimen, 1995.

Jean François Porchez revives this tradition with a more contemporary style in five weights, with several ligatured letters, not unlike the typographic & lettering work of Herb Lubalin. Banjo has never been in PostScript form, Anisette gives us even more, enabling us to play with the weights & widths of its capitals. This put an end to the perfect geometric monotony.

As we say in France about alcohol “use (drink) Anisette in moderation.”

By Gérard Blanchard (1927-1998).
Typographic researcher, Doctor Honoris Causa es Arts.

Links

Anisette
Anisette Petite
Gérard Blanchard, 6 septembre 1998