Designed by the Foundry Types in partnership with Studio Sutherl&, the London Fire Brigade’s new typeface looks back to the service’s lengthy history for inspiration, drawing on architecture, signage, fire engines, and the lettering seen on Victorian water pumps.
The London Fire Brigade needed a typeface for certain touchpoints like its new shop and signage around its buildings, and had initially planned to use its existing typeface, Foundry Sans. However, it became apparent that Foundry Sans wouldn’t shine in those contexts, so Foundry Types and Studio Sutherl& set about creating a new design, culminating in the typeface Fire Brigade Sans, in a process that took around 18 months.
“The design has a flavour of 20th century geometric grotesque fonts, really. The style is very old,” says Foundry Types director and designer Stuart De Rozario. “They want to get away from the strong macho image – you know, ‘men fighting fire’ – because they do a lot of community work and charity work, so they want that caring aspect. We tried to incorporate that by having a bold, strong typeface, but having a softer side to it, and that’s evident in the curves of the type. It’s in your face, but there’s a soft side to it.”
“To get that drop shadow and the regular fonts to work, to match up, was quite a technical thing,” explains De Rozario. Simply layering the two fonts meant that “the high point on the cap height was very, very up and down. It was like a heartbeat,” he says, particularly on letters with strong curves, but the team remedied this by “taking the curve of the shadow higher”.
The design will be used across Shoreditch Fire Station – expect to see it “all over the wall and on the floor”, according to De Rozario – which is playing host to an exhibition called The Running Towards as part of London Design Festival. Part of the exhibition brings together posters featuring the new typeface, which have been designed by an array of studios – among them the Foundry Types, plus other agencies including Pentagram, Superunion and DNCO, including beautiful illustrations from a range of artists.
The Running Towards is on display at Shoreditch Fire Station, London until September 24; londondesignfestival.com