Type Designer Jean François Porchez in Residence at the UW

Jean François Porchez

Widely recognized as a typographic icon in his native France, type designer Jean François Porchez visits the UW this week to work with UW students and faculty. He will also be delivering two free public lectures and visiting professional design firms in the Seattle area.

Best-known for designing the typefaces for the French newspaper Le Monde, Porchez has also designed logos and custom typefaces for the Paris Métro, France Télécom, Louis Vuitton, Peugeot, Renault, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Beyoncé Knowles's House of Deréon, the Baltimore Sun, and Real Simple magazine, among others.

An honorary President of the Association Typographique Internationale (the world’s leading organization for type design), Porchez regularly conducts type design workshops globally. He has taught type design at EnsAD in Paris and at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He received the prestigious Prix Charles Peignot for typeface design in 1998. His work has also been honored by the TDC, Creative Review, the Club Des Directeurs Artistiques, and the Morisawa International Type Design Competition.

The first of his two talks—“Letters from France I”—takes place on campus Wednesday, February 15, at 7:00 p.m. in Kane 110. In it, he will lecture on the pragmatic aspects of type design as well as the intellectual, cultural, and historic contexts of letters. It is free and open to the public.

In the second, titled “Letters from France II,” he will discuss his design work in the larger context of French culture. This talk takes place Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m. at the Alliance Française of Seattle. It will be given in English, followed by a bilingual (French and English) question-and-answer session. Free tickets for this second lecture may be reserved via Brown Paper Tickets.

In addition to the public lectures, Porchez will lead a type design workshop for students in the School of Arts’ Visual Communication Design program and will visit select courses in French Studies, European Studies, and Art History while in residence.

Karen Cheng (Art), the primary organizer of his visit, has been eager for Porchez to work with UW students. According to Cheng, deep understanding and sensitivity to the form of typefaces, their history and their function—all elements that Porchez brings to his design work—are critical to students’ future professional successes. To her, Porchez represents an excellent role model. She explains, “He has great passion for type design—he gets excited by the activity and is interested in all forms of type. We want to encourage our students to have this kind of passion for some aspect of design. Beyond that, I think Porchez has also worked selflessly to advance the discipline of type design itself and to support a renaissance of type design in France. I want to encourage students to think about helping the field of design in a larger way.”

In the workshop, students will work in groups to design a new typeface, including upper and lower case letters and numbers. Cheng anticipates that they will gain more insight into the structure, history and function of letters through interfacing with Porchez. She also hopes they will be inspired in their design pursuits, and will more broadly reflect upon how their own work and careers might develop in the future. 

For more information on Jean François Porchez, see: http://​www.typofonderie.com/

Porchez’s visit to the UW and related programs are presented by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Division of Design in the School of Art and the Division of French & Italian Studies, with additional support from the UW Center for West European Studies, the French-American Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, and Alliance Française de Seattle.