In May of last year, we reviewed the revised logo for Renault that didn’t fare very well. Particularly the wordmark, a stunted version of the previous one that didn’t improve the brand in any way. Now there is some hope for Renault to regain some typographic merit with the introduction of a new type family that is part of a comprehensive overhaul of the French car company’s vehicles to be used on their interiors, exteriors, and, of most importance, as their nameplates. Designed by Paris-based Production Type, the type family named Renault Carname — not the most imaginative name — is comprised of three widths, two weights, and two degrees of italics that aim to cover “the spectrum of visual expressions in the Renault line, from hulking, muscular trucks to swift, nimble cabriolets.”
More images and backstory at Production Type’s news page.
Informed by a deep research of Renault’s background and car history at large, Production Type created a new typeface that departs from current convention without reverting to nostalgia or retroism. That’s not an easy task: When working in an industrial environment with numerous technical constraints it’s easy to settle for a predictable aesthetic. Renault Carname manages to steer away from the industry’s typically “technical” look while retaining a solid and dependable mood.
This is not a logo or identity redesign post, more like the one for Domino’s Pizza in 2014, where it’s the typographic system that adds up to a visual identity. In this case, the effect might not be as evident, since the typography will only be used on the cars and not in ads and other materials, although it has the potential, especially the condensed widths and the Italic Plus styles. Still, as the typeface for use across all the car nameplates, it’s bound to have a positive impact.
The typeface, on its own as a black on white drawing can look slightly weird — that extended “a”, yikes! — but when it gets produced as an actual chrome nameplate it becomes quite impressive and sophisticated, using the technical requirements of creating car nameplates to its advantage.
“Chrome letters have their own peculiar way of behaving, and must be treated as such,” said Jean-Baptiste Levée, Production Type’s president and lead designer on the project. “Receiving and reflecting light elegantly is one of the key roles a chrome letter is expected to play: their shapes need to interact closely with the environment, their lines and curves must perform seamlessly with sun rays. Among the multiplicity of parameters, our team sought the most down-to-earth (matching a minimum typeface weight to the viscosity of a glue) and the most person-oriented (thickening and rounding small stems & spikes which can be hazardous in case of an impact).”
The solution happened to be surprisingly poetic, too. “The upper surface of the letters is not flat, but a parabolic, asymmetric curve, similar to the profile of an airplane wing,” continued Levée. “At any mounting angle the letters will thus always reflect the sky, not the ground.” The end result proves that a chrome badge not only gives a car its name and personality, it also attracts attention by its very nature.
The nameplate doesn’t have the vintage appeal of what you would find on a site like Chromeography and on first impression it might look like a hundred other car names on the road right now but it has a crispness and purposefulness that seems to be missing from other nameplates. Granted, I don’t pay much attention to them, but looking at this so closely, it definitely stands out and does so consistently across a variety of names.
The KADJAR name in particular looks great, especially when you consider what a kerning nightmare it is.
It’s rare to think of a modern-day car brand’s identity being defined by the typography on their nameplates. Take for example Subaru’s nameplates, they are all over the place for each car; there is no brand relationship between the Outback and Forester, two of their main cars. Here, Renault is presenting a unified approach where Renault’s diamond logo, the main identifier, is strongly supported by a consistent type family designed specifically for being an object on a car and with the supporting weights and styles to apply it anywhere else inside or outside the car and, maybe, one day, one can hope, to the Renault logo itself.