A graphic designer and self-described “typography geek” tells the story behind the creation of her award-winning font, P22 Marcel.
On an antiquing trip in the early 2000s, Porter acquired a series of “scratchy, old, ink-on-paper” letters written in a beautiful, unique script she wanted to use as the basis for a font design. The letters, written in French, were penned by a man named Marcel and had been posted from Berlin to Marcel’s family in France during World War II. But surface information about the letter writer was not enough for Porter, who would spend the next decade carefully crafting the font she would name in Marcel’s honor. The more she studied the letter shapes, the more she puzzled over the context in which Marcel wrote his letters, which he always ended with a deep paternal tenderness and signed with an eye-catching flourish. She began her search online, which yielded tantalizing clues. She learned that Marcel had been one of thousands of French citizens obliged to participate in a Vichy government forced-labor program that sent them to work in German factories. This information only made Porter more desirous to know whether the man she had come to think of as “my Marcel” had survived. Enlisting the aid of translators and a genealogist, the author eventually discovered that Marcel had reunited with his wife and children. More importantly, Marcel had been able to put his time as a forced worker behind him and live a happy life. The book is most interesting for the details it offers about the process Porter used to transform script into font and the search she undertook to piece together Marcel’s life story. While it is clear that the author felt a genuine connection to Marcel, consideration of why he became so personally important to her is lacking. The result is a story that obscures the reader’s relationship with the narrator.
A flawed but intriguing memoir from a diligent researcher.