Sascha Lobe’s latest signage project accentuates architecture through typography
Developing a uniquely precise system for Bibliotheque Nationale Du Luxembourg, the Pentagram partner’s new project showcases his love of wayfinding.
- Lucy Bourton
- 30 September 2020
It may not come as a surprise, but Sascha Lobe absolutely loves working on signage projects. For the designer and Pentagram partner, wayfinding offers the opportunity to touch many creative practices, covering “everything from type design to environmental and product design across analogue and digital realms,” he tells It’s Nice That. It’s also a chance for Sacha’s design sensibility to reach the general public, pointing out how: “Wayfinding systems impact how visitors notice a building and the right signage will define and accentuate the architecture and draw out its beauty, not efface it.”
A recent example of the Pentagram partner putting his fondness for signage in motion is his team’s work for Bibliotheque Nationale Du Luxembourg (BnL). Designed by architecture firm Bolles+Wilson, who won the bid to redesign the library which reopened in 2019, Sascha was chosen following an extensive survey in European signage by the institution.
Selected for an approach “which adapts to the architectural environment and gives it a bespoke visual identity,” the resulting signage is built from cubed system – a nod to the building's architectural structure. With a hand-built feel, Sacha’s vision for the library’s signage answered the BnL’s want for “a solution that could put a contemporary twist on signage and stand the test of time instead of being defined by purely digital solutions,” he tells us.
Discussing the building block system the signage features, Sascha explains that “The bigger picture idea was the modular cube”. As the briefing from the BnL and Bolles+Willson featured “a vast list of tasks handled by the BnL on a daily basis,” each cube, which features sections of a letter placed neatly together to make letterforms, is precisely designed with the staff in mind. “Even a 0.1mm difference would have caused problems, so creating cubes of the right size with that precision was crucial,” adds Sascha. Although specifically accurate the signage is also extremely flexible, in total consisting of 25,000 resin cubes, 6000 tableaus and 2,400 numerical shelving characters.
As for the cubes themselves, Sascha explains that each is made with three sides featuring letters, and then a handful of the featured glyphs can be used in multiple forms, all broken apart to form a bespoke typeface for the BnL. “In this way, an M forms a W, two and Z are interchangeable, as well as numbers six and nine,” he points out. “The three other sides of the cube reveal the modules, which when stacked in a series of three, create larger letters and patterns.” The system also consists of three character sizes, available to be utilised at different distances too, “large characters the size of a few cubes for long distance reading,” for example, “and a reduced font size for shelving systems.”
In turn the identity system is one which champions the nuances of typography – we encourage fanatics to zoom in on these Scrabble-like details. Yet while being nuanced in its approach, the signage approach also achieves Sascha’s overall design aim of finding “the right fit for the architecture and the brands we are working with to lend the project a seamless guise.”
Pentagram: Sascha Lobe, Bibliotheque Nationale Du Luxembourg (Copyright © Pentagram, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.