For 120 years, French department store Galeries Lafayette has built a business around the idea of ‘a unique encounter of creativity and commerce, accessible to all’. But rather than simply market the product of creativity, or idolize the art itself, Guillaume Houzé, President of the Foundation, wanted to get closer to the process itself.

Bringing making to the fore
Lafayette Anticipations is a cultural institution. Not only is it helping the brand break away from the four walls of the store, it’s blazing a new trail. Unlike initiatives like Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Foundation and a soon-to-open showcase Francois Pinault, it isn’t a conventional gallery.

It’s a unique, experimental space that supports artistic development and encourages making. In the basement, invited artists – not all internationally known and not all French – will be given the time, space and equipment to indulge their imaginations in a hi-tech workshop.

It’s a multi-disciplinary place of production, where artists are challenged to realise work in new ways. Together with curator and director Francois Quentin, Houzé asked us to create a brand that would embrace this idea, and bring making to the fore.

“We have a project that is unique in character and innovative for the artists. The idea here is to give artists the means, including the tools and the machines, to produce something new. What they produce will be presented here, but not only here.”

Guillaume Houzé, President of the Foundation

Constant anticipation
We thought deeply about how to convey the concept to the public. With production always continuing in the background, the feeling of anticipation would be present and powerful for the audience, so it became our focus.

This thought coincided with the mechanical architecture of the Rem Koolhaas-designed building. Its ‘exhibition tower’ is comprised of four motorized platforms that can move independently, meaning the space can be reconfigured in 49 ways. As the artists make their pieces, so the building makes different spaces. Visitors wouldn’t know what to expect next.

Inspired by the insight that concealing and revealing words in part creates more anticipation than showing things in full, we anchored the brand in a dynamic, bespoke typeface, which we crated in partnership with masters of typography, Colophon.

Letters are cropped in a random way, giving a sense of constant motion even when static – an homage to the building it graces. We developed an algorithm that means the same word yield different combinations each time it’s typed. It’s a feat of design, maths and code, used across print, digital and signage to great effect.

“With Wolff Olins, we have managed to extend a site-specific identity to a global media, through a simple and radical typeface that works as a visual organon. It literally signifies to our audience that there’s more to what one reads or sees.”

Guillaume Houzé, President of the Foundation

Intelligent identity at work
Overall, this is much more than a traditional brand identity. It’s a smart, interconnected system of responsive assets, intrinsically connected to new technologies. It seeks to create a genuine dialogue and emotional connection with people, and is an example of intelligent identity at work. Since the start of the year it’s received over 400 pieces of press coverage, including in Design Week and Dezeen.

It won a Silver Award in ‘Creation of A New Brand Identity’ at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, two Wooden Pencils from D&AD, and a Fast Company Innovation by Design award in 2018.

It reflects the nature and purpose of the institution, the building and behaves in the way we believe contemporary brands must. Lafayette Anticipations launched on 10th March with an inaugural exhibition by Lutz Bacher, to wide acclaim from artists, influencers and the public. We’re excited to see what’s to come.

With thanks to Agence Zélé, Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti