Before putting pen to paper for our recent refresh of Bibendum’s Oyster Bar, we began collecting old Michelin guides and maps for inspiration. Although Michelin House is awash with decorative elements, we were interested in looking at some of the typographic heritage of the tyre brand.
Having scoured the internet we soon discovered the earliest edition of the guide, from 1900, was relatively rare, and had a price that reflected it. And so we settled for acquiring a fascimile reproduction. Written in French, it’s a little pocket sized book that uses so many styles of type it could double up as a type specimen. That said, it doesn’t feel cluttered or messy, the opposite in fact. It’s easy to navigate, despite titles using a real mix of vernacular type and sizes, the details are very structured, using a didone-style in two weights – a high contrast fat face and a thinner cut. Intriguing icons and a range of rules add to the charm.
Unsurprisingly though, it was the variety grots that really caught our attention: the squared sans, both elongated and extended; the geometric, with the C almost booming an O, the S swooping towards an 8; the grotesque that manages to be condensed and open, sharp and rounded, all at the same time… All of them are completely characterful and undeniably French.
The maps we gathered – from the 1920s to the 1950s – seemed to follow a similar typographic approach: Anything goes, but it still manages to be clean and clean, and very French. They are a feast for the eyes – idiosyncratic typefaces, intricately drawn maps, combinations of colours and of course the Michelin man…
With such a rich typographic history, we had a wealth of inspiration to draw on for the menu designs at the Oyster Bar – it became a case of editing and refining to create a contemporary and usable system. You can see the finished result here.