Brand Identity, Digital Design

Identity for the new French-language bookstore at the French Embassy in New York City.

Uniquely devoted to French works in French and English, Albertine is a bookshop and reading room opened by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. The only French-language bookstore in the city, Albertine offers the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States, with over 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comics and graphic novels, and children’s books.

Pentagram has designed a distinctive new identity for Albertine inspired by French vernacular typography. The designers worked closely on the project with the store’s founder, Antonin Baudry, the Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy. The shop has been envisioned as less a retail space than a reading room that invites visitors to linger, and the identity invokes the connection between books, knowledge, and Enlightenment, with references to Parisian Art Deco.

Albertine is celebrating its opening this week with a six-night festival that showcases the store as a new hub for French-American intellectual exchange and debate. Curated by cultural critic Greil Marcus, the event runs from October 14-19 and features discussions with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep) and author and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis).

Located in the landmark Payne Whitney mansion on Manhattan’s Museum Mile (972 Fifth Avenue at 79th Street), Albertine has been designed by the renowned French architect Jacques Garcia in the model of a grand, private French library. The two-floor space gives the public unprecedented access to formerly private sections of the Beaux-Arts mansion designed by Stanford White. The store is named after the elusive love interest in Marcel Proust’s classic À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past).

Baudry wanted an identity for Albertine that would fit in with the refined design of the shop and mansion but could feel at home in Paris, too. The identity features custom-drawn lettering based on French vernacular packaging. The logotype appears in tandem with a radiant sun that refers to the mural on the ceiling of the bookstore.

To create the final version of the wordmark, the designers collaborated with the typographer Jeremy Mickel, who drew the letterforms based on a sketch by the designers. Shopping bags, announcements and other graphic collateral appear in an elegant palette of gold and white. The team also designed the store’s website, with a format that evokes editorial design. The custom logotype is joined by the typefaces Trio Grotesk, Parry and Helsinki in various applications.

New York
Abbott Miller
Project team
Kim Walker
Andrew Walters
Jesse Kidwell
Yoon-Young Chai
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