In 1996, Roger van den Bergh from Van den Bergh / Gilliatt / Campbell in New York commissioned Luc(as) to create a set of exclusive corporate typefaces for the American telecommunications company BellSouth. The resulting family included four sans serif and two slab serif variations. The sans serif was a bit inspired by Avenir and included Regular, Oblique, Bold and Bold Oblique styles. Luc(as)’s based the slab serif on Memphis. This had one just one Regular style, with a companion Oblique; the slab serifs had the same visual weight as the sans serif’s Regular and Oblique styles.
Van den Bergh first became aware of Luc(as)’s work after seeing the Thesis superfamily. Indeed, he called Luc(as)’s TheSans, TheSerif and TheMix trio “a breath of fresh air.” He especially considered TheSans better designed than the older sans serifs converted to digital format from older phototypesetting or metal formats. Fascinated with Luc(as)’s work, Van den Bergh brought him onboard for the BellSouth rebranding. The first typeface that Luc(as) prepared was a condensed version of TheMix. BellSouth opted for a different direction, and Luc(as) then drew the fonts shown here. BellSouth wanted to have custom fonts that the company could own; licensing existing type, for instance, would have been more expensive and would not have given the company as much design flexibility. Luc(as)’s BellSouth typefaces are functional and rational designs. They delivered, both from a design as well as a licensing perspective.
BellSouth used the fonts were used for text for both text as well as display sizes. In terms of their overall weights, BellSouth Sans is lighter than the commercial Futura Book, while BellSouth Slab is heavier than Memphis Light. Although Memphis was not originally designed to pair with Futura, it can in retrospect be described as having a similar geometric skeleton. This makes the Futura and Memphis pairing similar to later typefaces made to be used together, like Avant Garde and Lubalin Graph.
In late 2006, BellSouth was acquired by AT&T. They retired the BellSouth brand name; after that, only the AT&T name was used.