New Covent Garden Market
For the brand and venue relaunch of a London horticultural icon, Colophon Foundry was asked to reimagine one of its own new-classics as a contemporary set of display types with a knack for nostalgia and way-making. Project commissioner Wiedemann Lampe, coming off a recent re-branding of the new purpose-built complex in Nine Elms, sought to maintain the traditions and values of the New Covent Garden Market despite its relocation and imminent rebirth.
A series of features built into the font pair (Medium + Bold) allows for unique settings that emphasize typographic garnish, encourage organic yet controlled shifts in scale, and highlight vernacular emphasis techniques. An extended set of uppercase superscripts, as well as underlines, abbreviations, and ornaments are easily put to use via OpenType features that allow for both playful and pragmatic renderings of the market’s signage and wayfinding assets.
The new type’s painterly approach contains an outward affability that calls to mind traditional transportation communications in and around London, at moments conjuring up the eponymous creations of Edward Johnston (Johnston, 1916) and Eric Gill (Gill Sans, 1926–28), but ultimately carving out a niche for itself that breathes contemporary life into an historic establishment.
For the project, Value Sans — an already decidedly English type — was imbued with even more early-British-modernist traits: We added an extra level of sharpness onto the terminals of certain characters, hinting at the calligraphic lifting of a pen or brush from an imaginary surface; other upper terminals were ended perpendicular to the stroke trajectory, nodding in part to the early-20th century letterforms of Harold Curwen (1885–1949) and the East London-based Curwen Press (1963–84).
For all the type’s newness-via-reference, it is, of course, comforting to know that certain things never change. Arrive at the Market at opening time (04:00!) on any given morning, and you’ll see a handful of the nearly 75% of London florists who source their wares from the wholesale vendors of NCGM; they’ll be making their way around stalls of foliage, plants, and flowers, guided in large part by the custom type that adorns the lanes of the marketplace.
For the new New Covent Garden Market, the foundry’s design challenge was a special one: with an out-of-the-box typographic milestone in place, we set out to carefully draw a series of new letterforms and customizations that would not only position the new typeface as uniquely proprietary to NCGM, but also add gravitas and history to an already storied institution.
Typeface: NCGM Value Sans
Commissioner: Wiedemann Lampe, London
2 Styles: Medium, Bold
Coverage: Latin-2 Encoded
Classification: Painterly Sans-Serif
URL: newcoventgardenmarket.com / wiedemannlampe.com