Making a bespoke typeface for the ‘Home of Cycling’.

An integral part of the new ‘Home of Cycling’ identity for Eurosport’s coverage of the Grand Tour season was a bold, hand-crafted typeface. Here we take a brief look at the inspiration and process that led to its creation.

With the Grand Tour season now in full swing, Eurosport is delivering unrivalled coverage of cycling’s most prestigious races on TV and online. Covering over 2,500 hours across 200 days of live cycling, from more than 110 professional events, Eurosport remains the undisputed ‘Home of Cycling’ in Europe for all passionate fans of the sport. DixonBaxi and Eurosport have partnered once again to create a stand out identity and live race system for all cycling content across digital and on air.

Celebrating their commitment to the fans, Eurosport will treat the audience to an enhanced in-race experience, helping them to get closer to the peloton – and their heroes – than ever before.  

“One motif that clearly stood out for us was the ubiquitous roadside expressions, statements, and words of encouragement by the fans.”

With cycling such a visually stimulating discipline, there was a wealth of imagery, photography, and experience that we drew upon to envisage the ‘Home of Cycling’ identity: from the passion of the fans with their vibrancy, energy and their vivid encouragement on the road; to the classic heritage of cycling, inspired by the badges and crests found on the bike frames; and of course the colours and designs of the race jerseys which have their own historical and contemporary associations.

One motif that clearly stood out for us was the ubiquitous roadside expressions, statements and words of encouragement by the fans. With upwards of 12 million fans lining the roadside, it is one of the most iconic Grand Tour images. Some say the Alps become one of Earths biggest natural stadiums and the super-sized messages painted and written on the tarmac create a rich visual texture that complements the occasion with celebratory spirit.

“Tall and condensed with rough-hewn, ragged edges it instantly evokes the spontaneous and passion-fuelled daubing seen in cycle races across the world.”

The messages are typically written on the mountain stages, where the climbs are slower and more gruelling, where the riders need that extra urge and encouragement to carry on through the pain. Mile after mile of slog. They are prolific in their manifestations. For the fans, this is where the race truly starts, where the shit gets real. Where riders snap and bomb, or persevere to cross the finish line, knackered yet elated.

This is the place where a fan can almost touch their heroes, rather than witness the entourage zipping past in a streak of 65kph colour and screaming sprockets.

An ever-present part of the Grand Tour scene – the messages are synonymous with the greatest cycle races in the world, and literally become the terrain that the peloton has to conquer. Messages of love, willing, and solidarity; of hero worship and of protest; simple painted chants and slogans. In every language. The messages remain long since the caravan has whisked through, leaving a resonant outpouring across the hillsides.

‘Eurosport Home of Cycling’ is a headline font with a bold, hand wrought feel that looks like it’s been rolled right onto the asphalt. Tall and condensed with rough-hewn, ragged edges it instantly evokes the spontaneous and passion-fuelled daubing seen in cycle races across the world.

We initially tested a number of pre-made ‘painted’ typefaces, but rapidly came to the conclusion that none were quite up to the task of evoking the scale and proportions of the real handmade thing. Either lacking in scale with a very brushed feel, too scrawly or just not drawn in the correct super-stretched aesthetic, we decided to make our own. This way we could ensure a recognisable form, that cyclists and passionate fans around the world could instantly connect with.

With Eurosport broadcasting in over 54 territories globally, a full-bore character-set was essential. This, of course, gave us the satisfaction of playing with Cyrillic and Greek letterforms as part of creating an all-caps alphabet for twelve languages. With an incredibly tight timescale to produce the font – which had to contain 309 unique glyphs – we quickly realised that although super desirable, a handmade approach would be detrimental to delivery. So we perfected a more rough-hewn digital approach with a self-built aesthetic. We allowed ourselves to deliberately overlap and hack the forms together. Using a base monospace, caps only character-set meant that rules could be broken, or less stringent. We then pulled a road surface texture through the marks, to enhance the look and to set context and provenance to the cut. We shot some choice sections of tarmac and then converted these to vector forms to ensure total scalability.

This now means that Eurosport can make totally bespoke and spot-on promos and communications for every fan, no matter where they are, without needing to compromise on message, design or experience. It forms the centrepiece for many of Eurosport’s ‘Home of Cycling’ communications and features prominently in race promotions and any scenario that needs punchy and concise verbal impact. By continuing our drive to deliver a committed fan experience for Eurosport, adding a bespoke typeface to the expression was just one small way to notch up the authenticity and desirability of the brand.