Responses by Sascha Lobe, partner, Pentagram
Background: We aimed to create a coherent wayfinding system for the Bibliothèque Nationale du Luxembourg (BnL) that would be mindful of the building’s architecture and interior spaces. It was all about adding value through signage without detracting from the inherent nature of the public space. The wayfinding system is geared towards library visitors by making navigation intuitive, and also caters to library staff by enabling them to change the signage at any time with flexibility and ease.
Reasoning: Accentuating the beauty of a building, not devaluing, is my first train of thought for any wayfinding project. From there, it was about designing a flexible system that would make life easier for the library staff, as well as establishing a visual language that would complement the library itself. I knew we’d have thousands of resin cubes and tableaus to work with, so in designing the typeface, we aimed to make specific characters and numbers interchangeable.
Challenges: We needed to create a wayfinding system that would have the same intuitive visual language, and also carry over to various parts of the library and be seen from near and far. For this, we designed three character sizes, including those set to the size of the cube itself for close to mid-range distances, large characters the size of a few cubes for long distance reading and a reduced font size for shelving systems.
Favorite details: In this project, the details are not just the details, but the main concept. We designed the geometric typeface Bibliothèque, which can be modularized in squares to display larger letters and generate patterns. We then applied the font to the six surfaces of the resin cubes.
Three sides of the cubes feature letters and a handful of these glyphs can be used in dual forms. In this way, an M forms a W, 2 and Z are interchangeable, as well as the numbers 6 and 9. The three other sides of the cube reveal the modules, which, when stacked in a series of 3, create larger letters and patterns. We took it a step further and constructed the resin cubes from sustainable materials, which translates the timelessness of the library past, present and future. Our solution evolves from type design to graphic design, jumps over to product design and also extends to interior design and architecture.
Visual influences: Some of the visual references we looked at included word games, crossword puzzles and the penned words stored behind the covers of some of the most epic titles.
Anything new: We weren’t working with a static space or system to complement the signage at the BnL. The library’s collection volume is always changing, so finding unique ways to adapt the signage to a space that is constantly in motion was a nice challenge to tackle.