Landmark, an architectural letter.
The signature alphabet of one of New York’s most significant buildings becomes a family of clear and colorful display fonts.
For those who understand outdoor lettering as a form of public service, no landmark seems more deserving of its own typeface than Lever House. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1952, Lever House is celebrated for its emphasis on both technological innovation and urban values: it pioneered glass curtain wall construction, the technique that came to define the modern skyscraper, and it used its site to favor aesthetic and social considerations over the raw potential for profit. There could hardly be a project more sympathetic with H&FJ’s own values, making the opportunity to design a typeface for Lever House an irresistible commission for the then-new collaboration between typeface designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones.
Pentagram’s Michael Bierut developed an identity system for Lever House as part of the building’s 1999 renovation. Instead of selecting a typeface from the world of print, whose origins would have made it a poor match for the mechanical needs and cultural considerations of public lettering, Bierut commissioned a new alphabet from H&FJ inspired by letters found on the building itself. The words “LEVER HOUSE” on the Park Avenue window had a spare and manifest geometry which was shared by the inscription on the building’s cornerstone, together shaping the direction of the Landmark typeface. Of vital importance was that the typeface succeed in all capitals, in keeping with the architectural aesthetic, and that it satisfy a range of applications and materials, from large-scale steel signs to ADA-compliant elevator panels cast in resin.
In preparation for its release, H&FJ revisited the original Landmark typeface with additional variations in mind. Thinking about the material qualities of architectural lettering, and how it responds to changes in light and perspective, prompted three new designs: a keen Inline, a contemplative Shadow, and a dazzling Dimensional.