Robert L. Peters

23 February 2010

Congratulations, universdesign!

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São Paulo, Brazil

My designer/architect friend Marcelo Aflalo of universdesign has sent me some images their recent work for São Paulo’s public library (which has just launched last month in the pouring rain)—an approach using three-dimensional typography “designed to promote the pleasure of reading, and grant access to anyone.” Project scope included the logo, overall identity, visual communications, environmental design, the interior color palette (furnishings, etc.) and some of the architectural elements. In Marcelo’s words…

“The idea is to bring libraries and the pleasure of reading closer to the booming ‘C class,’ more familiar with TV and Internet than anything that resembles literature. The library has a small collection of books (around 40,000) compared to a regular  library, but whatever you need they’ll find for you—on demand. It will also host storytellers, musicians and performers. Readers will be encouraged to make the bridge between movies and the written word through more than a hundred large screen computer terminals connected to a fairly big mainframe. There are various lounge areas according to age and behavior. One can read at the terraces or at the café area. Consistent to the overall concept there are no ‘forbidden’ signs—everything is allowed and the limits are set by the users. There is an adult only section (the one behind the frosted glass wall with the gray silhouettes) with literature with erotic/sexual content, violence, and drug related subjects. The kids’ area is also divided by age and all have a multipurpose booth.

The text with the name of the library is set in many different typefaces to show diversity and there are some black and white figures holding  colorful reading material. All the pictures and the silhouettes were shot at the park around the library and are regular users of the area. The idea is to bring the space closer to the general public by depicting some of them. Accessibility is behind every design decision, from the size of the type set on the signage to the ‘Braille’ map on both floors. The letter faces on the reception desk are based on printing box sets. The big foundry type at the entrance pays homage to Bodoni, Helvetica,  Baskerville and Prospera creators. Prospera? Yes, its a beautiful type face designed by a good friend who lives in Galena (by the Mississippi), and was one of the first typefaces designed on a Mac, back in the 80’s. It was never cast to be printed mechanically (I love this contradiction, my private joke).

The folded paper airplanes are 10 feet long and were printed with images from great pages in history or utilitarian references. There is one by Michelangelo, one is from a beautifully-designed Portuguese dictionary, one carrying comic strips by Angeli (well known around here), one with the musical score written and hand corrected by musician Antonio Carlos Jobim (samba of the jet plane), and so on—all taken from originals and authorized.

Although we haven’t done much architecture lately, we came out with the final solution for the terraces and the café area and the reference here are sailboats and the idea of freedom, acquired when you read a book and create your own scenario…”

Great job, Marcelo—your love of typography really shines through!

(I’ll admit I’m a little envious).

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