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  • 03.08.17

This Band’s New Record Has Its Own Free Typeface

The French indiepop band Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains commissioned a font that mixes strange symbology with traditional 19th-century design.

Solide Mirage—the official typeface for the band Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains‘s album of the same name—is an heir to Bodoni, though it’s hard to tell just by looking at it.

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Infused with symbology and at times barely legible, Mirage is like the dignified, 19th-century typeface’s much younger, new age-y cousin. Two marks cut across the “C” to give it the look of the Euro sign. The stem on the lower case “h” balloons out and then curls around itself like a modernist treble clef.

It’s the work of Jérémy Landes, a co-founder of French type foundry Velvetyne, who started working on a logo and typeface for the new album a year ago, when it was still in its nascent stages. The band’s frontman, François Marry, met Landes while filming one of the band’s music videos—Landes was dancing in it—and the two had been friends ever since. In recent years, people had been abbreviating the lengthy band name to an acronym, FATAM, which Marry hated. He asked Landes to design a logo that would establish the official abbreviation as F&AM—and the idiosyncratic, symbols-based typeface evolved from there.

By the time he started developing the type, Landes had rough cuts of some of the latest album’s songs, the album artwork, and Bodoni—the font the band had been using for its albums—as a starting point. “[Frànçois] wanted something more personal and linked to the rest of his work,” he says. Landes noticed that the jacket for the previous album, Piano Ombre, used symbols to credit the collaborators on songs, rather than writing out their names beneath the song titles. In the back of the booklet, a legend showed which symbols represented whom. Reasoning that fonts were really just a system of symbols anyways, Landes opted to incorporate the legend directly into the typeface.

He started out by making a set of square letters, each with a uniform weight and width. Then he took the symbology—an icon of a star or a sun, for example—and used it as inspiration for the forms the final letters took. The result is a font that looks like an ancient script, more lovely that communicative. Landes says that he was also inspired by the title of the album, which is also the name of the font: Solide Mirage. “I tried to create this mirage, a feeling of imaginary and moving stuff, so that you don’t really know where they are,” he says.

While other bands have commissioned typefaces specifically for albums before, according to Landes’s research this is the first free, open-sourced font made specifically for an album. Graphic design usually infiltrates the music scene courtesy of album art, but type design doesn’t have as close of ties—something Landes attributes to the fact that type design can be such a lengthy process. “Album production goes really fast, but fonts need time,” he says.

Luckily, Landes was afforded seven months to develop the idiosyncratic typeface since Marry approached him early. Now he’s hoping that by making the font files available for download, it will enjoy an even longer life.

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[Images: via Velvetyne]

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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