Identity for Carla Borel ‘Homme Libre’

It has been a delight to work with the multi-talented Isolde Nash, creative director of Le Roi Fou, the award-winning Edinburgh restaurant and bar, on the identity for Homme Libre, an exhibition of striking photographs by Carla Borel. Isolde has a background in dance, classical music and fine art and curates the exhibition programme at Le Roi Fou, an integral part of the original vision for the restaurant. I met Isolde at my studio and, while looking at books and other items that I have designed, we had a fantastic discussion about typography, design and other things. Isolde told me that the Le Roi Fou logo and identity was designed by Mike Dempsey, one of my design heroes: his 1991 identity for English National Opera, including the iconic ENO logo, is one of the benchmarks that I often return to when thinking about design.

Homme Libre is an exhibition by Carla Borel, a London-based, Paris-born photographer, who focuses on portraiture using analogue processes. For this series of portraits – with each sitter shot on a single roll of film with 24 exposures – the photographer draws on themes of identity and community, centred around the idea of masculinity seen from a female perspective.

The identity for the exhibition is typeset in Neue Kabel, the typeface that was specified as part of the original Le Roi Fou identity. Neue Kabel is a revival by Marc Sch├╝tz that brings Rudolf Koch’s classic 1927 geometric sans serif up to date. Neue Kabel offers a wide choice of OpenType variations: for example, there are options to change the lowercase letter ‘a’ from a very distinctive double storey character (with the head of the ‘a’ cut off unusually close to the stem), to a single storey one, enabling the typesetter to create interesting features – something I hope to explore more in future iterations.

For the design I wanted to strike a balance between image and typography, while still prioritising the images – Carla’s work is so powerful and her subjects so engaging, they inevitably take centre stage! I presented various iterations of the design with different images but this photograph (Jacob) was the popular choice. I took my cues from Mike Dempsey’s logo and sized the rest of the type accordingly; over several iterations, I refined the typography to create a balance on the page as well as an understandable hierarchy of information. The background colour is one of several options – all tints of colours specified in the original Le Roi Fou identity.

As I was designing this, I was thinking about how the design might work with other exhibitions – as well as trying the type ranged left and with different treatments of the title, I tested the design by dropping in images into the template from the mosaic artist, Joanna Kessel (I have had the pleasure of working with Joanna before and she is a previous exhibitor at Le Roi Fou). I hope that this will be the first of many designs for the exhibitions programme at Le Roi Fou and I look forward to seeing how the design can be adapted to suit different work.

Above is the cover of the catalogue/price list, below is the invitation:

Below is the square invitation, reconfigured for use on social media:

Below are spreads from the catalogue/price list, which is A4 folded to A5 portrait:

Carla Borel Homme Libre runs at Le Roi Fou, 1 Forth Street, Edinburgh EH1 3JX from 11 February to 30 May 2020. The exhibition is open during restaurant opening times, Tuesday to Saturday.

Discover RSA Spring 2020

Discover RSA | Issue 113 | Spring 2020

Designed by James Brook for the Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 2020

Booklet | 210 x 148 mm | 16 pages
Printed by Events Armoury, Edinburgh

In early 2018, I was approached by the RSA to update the design of their newsletter as a 16 page A5 booklet. This is the sixth edition that I have designed in this format and style. For this iteration, the RSA asked me to move the RSA Friends logo from the front to the same position on the back (see below) as the newsletter is no longer just sent to the Friends but to other RSA supporters schemes. To balance the front cover, I increased the size of the Discover RSA masthead. The cover image is by Maija Fox, one of the RSA New Contemporaries who will be exhibiting at the RSA in February. The booklet is printed on an uncoated paper by Events Armoury in Edinburgh.




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