OSP-Crickx is a digital reinterpretation of a set of adhesive letters.
The Publi Fluor shop was situated in the northern part of Brussels, Schaerbeek, and founded by the father of Madame Christelle Crickx who was a trained letter painter. In his day he is—it seems—the first to propose fluorescent colors for shopwindow signs. It proves so difficult to paint letters on site with that kind of unstable coating that he develops a technique based on vinyl that he fluo-colors and cuts by hand in the workplace, then sticks at clients shops. Around 1975, his health degrades quickly and his daughter is forced to step into the business.
Starting to cut letters with the rounded and skilled cardboard templates drawn by her father, Madame Crickx slowly morphs the shapes by analysing how typographic niceties confuse her non-trained clients and leads to bad letters placement. She progressively removes the optical compensation of rounded tops and bottoms, straightens sides, and attaches accents for less floating parts. Those moves add a very specific orientation to this otherwise quite common bold italic sans serif display typeface.
During about fifty years these craft lettres have spread across the windows of shopping streets, more and more, and after the closure of the shop in the early noughties, they seem to still hold their own to the assaults of vector vinyl cutting technology.
In 1996, Pierre Huyghebaert and Vincent Fortemps have just started to work for the cultural center les Halles de Schaerbeek. For a series of events linked to India, an interest to mix local and distant vernacular takes shape. Those letters spotted on Schaerbeek’s shopwindows years before seem to fit the job ideally. After a few wanderings in the streets nearby, the small lettershop at the bottom of the dull Avenue Rogier, shining with its fluo shapes, is finally spotted as the origin of these typographic waves… And the inside of the shop proves to be even more amazing.
First contacts with Madame Crickx follow, the first poster is typeset letter by letter, then Pierre Huyghebaert pays other visits and it becomes obvious that these letters deserve more than a one-time usage, as Madame Crickx’s work deserves more than simply buying some letters more. For the following Halles assignments, after a quick-and-dirty Fontographer vectorisation, the Crickx font is heavily used. This font is called the Crickx Rush in reference of the time constrains that characterize this kind of operation. When Jan Middendorp, then Editor of the Belgian fontshop magazine Druk, orders an article on the letters, it is the occasion for Pierre to try to investigate and understand better the process described herebefore. (Astonishingly, shortly before the magazine stops, a poll seems to have elected the article as one of the most favoured by the readers…).
When Madame Crickx follows the retirement of her postman husband, the studio Speculoos (where Pierre works) buys the whole stock of letters and dingbats and vinyle for a symbolic prize, stores it in their basement of Saint-Gilles but uses it for some of their funkiest windowshop displays. He ask Madame Crickx to cut lower-cases for her letters as with other accented and diacritics to cover more or less the Latin-1 codepage, by trying to give her just enough sample to distinguish the characters but not much to influence the way to draw them. As answers, she cut a completely new and fantasy set of letters (called the blobby in the pack)… After a discussion, she propose new lower-case, more in sync with the upper cases classical ones, but not sharing exactly the same low contrast. After years of sleeping on hard-drive and archives, in 2010, Ludi Loiseau and Antoine Begon uplift the work to redraw the outlines to produce a more complete and less trashy version (Regular), explore the non-italic more rare one (Droite Rush and Droite) and extend it with lower cases (SharkCut). Finally, the Crickx’s cabinet regains a better place at the new Constant Variable place, Rue Gallait 80, less than a kilometer far from the original shop place…