Can you spot guerrilla adverts for the new Rapha typeface at these major cycling events?

Originally designed for the cycling brand, Frame is a headline-geared typeface, launched this year via unexpected placards at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Date
11 July 2022

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While trying to come up with new ways to advertise the release of ​​Frame, a Commercial Type typeface originally developed for Rapha, the digital foundry approached the cycling brand to see if it had any big ideas. “Matt Tucker [head of brand at Rapha] mentioned the idea of guerrilla advertising and in particular Dirk Hofman motorhomes, a Belgian company who used to hold up placards at major races and gain valuable TV airtime.” Just as the name of the campervan rental service has appeared on signs in numerous cycling events in Belgium and beyond, keen audience members watching Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this spring might have spotted Commercial Type’s Frame signs, teasing its release in late June 2022.

Frame was originally conceived as Rapha Sans and Rapha Serif, a set of corporate typefaces designed to update the brand’s typographic palette in 2017. Previously, Rapha’s identity had always utilised Trade Gothic and Adobe Caslon – however, Frame was designed specifically for headline and text use. The updated typeface is an adaptation of Caslon Doric, a compendium of the Caslon foundry’s sans serifs (cut at the turn of the nineteenth century) but remade with a modern approach and a focus on sharpness.

Just as typography has always been crucial to cycling – used “across bikes, riders’ jerseys, pinned race numbers, and banners”, says the Commercial Type site – Frame was to be used across online, print, clothing and merchandise. Crispness and legibility, therefore, were key. Coincidentally, Commercial Type’s guerilla advertising tactics for Frame also demonstrated its legibility – there seems no better test than filming the typeface at a distance while following a high-speed cycling race. Although, Commercial Type’s Paul Barnes explains this wasn’t planned. “I just thought that they should be on a luminous background which would standout, particularly if the weather was overcast.” Designed to work on screen, the robust serifs also happily “work well on signs”.

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Commercial Type: Rapha, Frame (Copyright © Commercial Type, 2022)

Commercial Type has advertised its typefaces uniquely before, for example, in a recent wheatpaste campaign in New York. Paul explains the cycling race idea seemed “amusing”, but also one that would work “well in situ, on television, but can also be documented.” According to Rapha’s Andy Edwards, fans who ran into the placards in person at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix were “curious and bemused”. Below, readers can see them captured by pro photographers, embedded into the race on TV screens, and captured by the team at Rapha – who snuck among the crowd to hold them up.

On whether the foundry will be sticking to more of the tactics going forward, Paul concludes: “We will continue with these kinds of promotions when they seem to fit with the typeface, though obviously with something like Frame, it was a bit of a logistical challenge. We had talked about going to the Tour de France and repeating the Frame placards, but it just wasn’t possible in the end.” Frame is now available at the Commercial Type site.

GalleryCommercial Type / Rapha: Rapha, Frame (Copyright © Commercial Type, 2022)

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Commercial Type / Rapha: Rapha, Frame (Copyright © Commercial Type, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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