Lettres du Havre is an entertaining book aimed at making everybody interested in the strong influence of graphic signs in a city.
The book plays on the dual meaning of the word ”letters”: typefaces, signs, logotypes on the one hand, and fictional letters (love letters, letters to relatives, professional letters, administrative letters…) on the other hand, in order to investigate the role of identities in a city, the evolution of brand design and signage, the interactions between social state and graphic signs.
As a result, one hundred fictional letters are inspired by a selection of one hundred photographs of signs located in Le Havre. The signs are organised in five chapters and analysed accordingly: industry, public service, independent shops, franchise, seaside and temporary signs.
The outcome is like a big picture of Le Havre in 2011-2012, a collection of zooms, both visual and social since the human contemporary issues are all raised in the letters (crisis, election, Europe, family rivalries, love, hate, jealousy, administrative nonsense…).
Lettres du Havre can also be seen as two books woven into one. Each author has his own typeface: Jean Segui’s fictional letters are typed in DTL Documenta whereas the captions next to the photographs made by Elodie Boyer are typed in ITC Franklin Gothic.
To broaden the debate, the authors have requested a contribution from four experts who bring a new vision to the investigation (see ”Regards d’ailleurs”): Valérie Patrin-Leclère, semiotician born in Le Havre and researcher at the University of Sorbonne, Paris; Bernd Hilpert, architect and signage designer, Manager of unit-design in Frankfurt; Patrick Doan, graphic designer based in Amsterdam, teaching at ESAD in Amiens; Arie Lenoir, printer and manager of LenoirSchuring printing office in Amsterdam.
Lettres du Havre is aimed at all kinds of readers: experts interested in evolution of branding and signage, decision makers willing to understand the impact of signs and the relationship between signage and architecture, graphic designers searching for an alternative collection of signs or interested in book design, people fond of Le Havre city, readers of letters looking for a good laugh and interested in human nature.
Lettres du Havre can be seen as an alternative city guide, an archive on Le Havre and the French society today, an essay on brands in the city and city branding, a collection of endangered signs, a tribute to Le Havre, a tribute to typefaces.
Regarding typefaces, we used the 40 pages left blank by the fictionary letters to make a random inventory of typefaces found in Le Havre. This generates a beautiful and surprising collection.
The sober book design, the materials chosen for the book cover and slipcase (rough cardboard) are aimed at making an echo with the architecture of Le Havre and Auguste Perret’s philosophy (the architect believes that forms follows functions, he wanted to prove that concrete could look even more beautiful than noble stones).
The production techniques were used to serve the book content. The initial briefing was ”to be able to read a fictionary letter within a spread of photographs of signs” so that we spend more time watching the signs, since the perception of signs evolve other time. This is why we ended up using a shorter format for the fictionary letters and a binding with no signatures. This allowed to print the fictionary letters in black only, to have flexible numbers of pages and papers for every topic.
Lettres du Havre is made by state of the art book manufacturers using unique and sophisticated techniques:
2 pages format (fictonary letters = 157 x 227 mm // book format = 170 x 240 mm)
No signatures – 402 sheets glued, 5 different papers (Dacosta 100 g, Sirio Perla 140 g, Munken Polar 150 g, LuxoMagic 135 g, Munken Lynx 80 g)
10 pages printed in risographie (introduction poem to enter softly into the city)
100 fictionary letters
Weight: 1.978 kg
Silk screened slipcase
Circulation: 2,000 copies of which 500 are numbered (lazer burn with a dot typeface, from 001 to 500 / 500)
Imagined in France, Made in The Netherlands
Price: 88€ (standard version) / 130€ (numbered version)
ISBN : 978-2-9542852-0-7
Date of publication: Nov 2012
About the authors: Elodie Boyer was born in 1972. She lives in Le Havre and she manages her own consultancy dedicated to corporate branding and design management, in Paris. She also teaches in Celsa (Paris, Sorbonne). Jean Segui was born in 1956. He is a writer, specialised in portrait and social satyre. Lettres du Havre is his fifth publication.
- Creative Directors Elodie Boyer
- Art Directors –
- Designers Patrick Doan assisted by Morgann Lechat and Jeremy Glatre
- Illustrators Patrick Doan (risographie) assisted by Morgann Lechat (map, boats)
- Photographers Elodie Boyer
- Editors Elodie Boyer and Jean Segui
- Copywriters Elodie Boyer and Jean Segui (authors)
- Printers LenoirSchuring
- Risographie Extrapool
- Book binder Patist (project supervised by Frank Epping)