Process: Trois Mille

About Trois Mille

Trois Mille introduced a high contrast methodology that pushed the limits of the broad nib calligraphy pen into striking new territory. The result of Marc Rouault’s progressive design was first introduced to the world as his TypeMedia thesis project in 2016. In a field where innovation tends to happen slowly, Trois Mille’s dynamic, expansive, and distinctly French character moved the needle of aesthetic culture rapidly. Initially inspired by the great modern master Roger Excoffon, Marc’s novel construction methodology was further explored via an extreme exploration in weight and width. Five years after its introduction, Trois Mille has grown into a masterfully executed family, spanning 7 weights in 21 widths of roman and italic styles.


7 weights, 21 widths, 294 total fonts.


Trois Mille began at the drawing board as a test to produce low contrast styles with a high contrast tool. Marc experimented with calligraphy, leading him to a breakthrough: by always orienting the pen at either 0° for horizontal strokes or 90° for verticals, he created a system where hairlines only occur at the stroke intersections and some interior strokes and joins, while the rest remain thick.

Early hand-drawn studies of Trois Mille

By utilizing nib-rotation to create monolinear outer strokes and only using the hairline value for stroke joins and some interior strokes and cross-bars, Rouault’s ideation laid the groundwork for a system of contrast methodology we call internal contrast. While some wood-type models and colloquial lettering of the past contain the building blocks of this style, Roualt's calligraphic model served as a vital first step in codifying these disparate construction ideas into a coherent methodology. The spark of this exciting visual style finds its most concentrated expression in the Black weights of Trois Mille. As the Trois Mille weight spectrum goes from Regular to Black, this 90° rotational stroke modulation changes from including horizontal strokes throughout the letterforms to excluding centralized horizontal strokes in the Black weight.


Quintessential American Grotesks of the wood type era pioneered this technique of thin inner strokes to keep a uniform weight in the heavy outer strokes, Trois Mille formalized this method by applying it to characters like ‘E’ and ‘S’. In the darkest weights, a hierarchy of horizontal contrast values balances characters with multiple thick horizontal strokes that could have otherwise looked too dense.


Echoes of Roger Excoffon’s signature style are found throughout the family. For Marc, Excoffon’s typefaces feel classic, but they possess a charmingly off-kilter and contemporary sensibility for the 20th century. The design of Excoffon’s masterpiece, Antique Olive, was guided by the results of a clinical study of the reading process conducted in the 1950s, which concluded that the top of the bouma (word shape) is the most integral to how the human eye processes Latin text into language. This informed Antique Olive’s distinct top-heavy style.


Trois Mille claims its space. It was designed to take up as much surface area as possible with measured restraint. Short ascenders and descenders and tucked tails create an ultra-compact texture that commands attention. Text and headlines are remain legible whether they are set in condensed or expanded widths.

In true Sharp Type fashion, Trois Mille is built out to an expansive range of numerically itemized widths, including 21 widths and 7 weights in roman and italic, for a total of 294 fonts. The family is fast, and full of energy. Trois Mille is a modern classic that fuses visual panache and sober legibility across the breadth of its massive weight system.


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