Le Monde 1994 anecdote

Recently, a journalist asked me about an anecdote, I like that one specially:

It was in summer 1994, the next day after my initial proposal/presentation of a new typeface for Le Monde newspaper. They already understood very well all my explanations, helped a lot with the panels that I built to explain, mostly to journalists, editors, the legibility advantage of the new typeface among others things. They appeared enthousiasts at the end of my presentation. So, that initial day, they wanted, for the next day, that I produce pages using my proposal typeface using their existing layout. Well, the composition of the newspaper was done in a huge system who, in 1994, not easy to get some files to work with. So, I rebuilt in a night, a page from scratch, from a simple paper version as model. The wish was to compare Times new roman, used by them with my new proposal.

So, back to the next day story: I came to the newspaper bureaux, bring two sheets of paper in the layout of Le Monde, with only one difference between two pages: 2 different typefaces used in the body text. I have in front of me an editor in chief, around 55 years who wear glasses. He liked my comparisons, but say to me that he wanted to be surprised himself by the legibility of my new typeface compared to their old Times. He told me that, because of my yesterday presentation, he can’t see the typefaces as normal day, with simple reader eyes and can’t see them without thinking to my day before explanation. He wanted to be surprised!

So, I really wondered what I can do? What this guy try to told me? He change is mind and stop to think that a new typeface is a good idea for the newspaper? Suddenly an idea came to my mind: I asked if he wasn’t “presbyope”; he answered positively to me. Well, I asked him to remove his glasses and move to the other side of the room, roughly at 3 meters. I stand up the other side with my two big samples pages in my two hands, side by side, without saying which side Times and the future Le Monde are. I ask him to came to me, and try to read the small body texts on one of the sample pages. Which one he will picked up in first? Theses seconds transformed as hours for me, until he selected the good sample, composed in what will became Le Monde typeface! I will remember all my life the light in is eyes when he found the legible one from where he was.

Jean François Porchez, 7 May 2004

typographie, design, typofonderie,