Font Designer – Jim Wasco

Jim Wasco

Interview with Jim Wasco

How did you fall in love with type design?
I did a lot of sign painting early in my career of lettering. This eventually led to type design. I think it was because of doing phototypesetting in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s that I developed a love for sturdy slab serif designs like Aachen™.

How many typefaces have you developed until now?
Here is a partial list of fonts I worked on:
1974 to 1989 freelance assisted Jim Parkinson in the Cochin®, and Kennerley revivals, an old Perspective metal type design, and Rolling Stone alphabet additional weights Elephant, Italics and Condensed, done in pen and ink. For other ad agencies I designed the Franzia winery logo, and many other logos for packaging and advertisements.
1985 produced font designs for DHL Express and SFO International Airport at Primo Angeli Inc.

1986 to 1989 produced various font families like Garamond, Goudy™, Eras, American Typewriter, Futura®, Stymie, etc. at SlideTek on PC based B-Spline vector graphic system.

1989 to 2002 produced fonts at Adobe Systems. I designed Tekton™ Bold, Mythos™, Tekton GX, Waters Titling word ligatures, designed and produced the “Romaji” Latin characters of Heisei Maru Gothic W4 and W8, Adobe Sans and Adobe Serif substitution fonts. I did font production work on ITC Garamond, ITC Cheltenham®, Albertus®, Castellar®, and critiqued production work from Linotype in Germany and Monotype in the UK. I most recently helped expand Adobe Originals to Pro character sets, Jenson Pro, Minion Pro, Kepler™, Sanvito™ Pro, Cronos™, Calcite™ Pro, and played an important roll in the production of Multiple Master fonts when they were being sold. In all, I was involved with too many fonts to mention them all.

2003 to present produced fonts at Monotype –
For Microsoft designed family of five weights of Segoe based on Segoe Regular.
Directed design production and programmed OpenType features for Segoe Script and Segoe Print.
Designed Wasco Sans a font for the gaming and flight simulator groups at Microsoft.
Designed AT&T Sphere Gothic Sans fonts. Designed a new slab serif family for Gatorade.
Directed a new design for General Electric called GE Sans.
Designed and directed production of various non-Latin scripts for Monotype’s Off-The-Shelf Display Imaging products – Armenian, Ethiopic, Khmer, Thai, Arabic, Hebrew and other African language scripts including Tifinagh, N’Ko and Bamum.
Designed an original Geometric Sans font family Harmonia Sans™.
Directed a language expansion project for Edward Johnston ‘s London Transport fonts adding Cyrillic and Greek.
Designed a script typeface based on the original ITC logo by Ed Benguiat called Elegy™.
Designed nine new weights for Neue Aachen™ font family expanding it to 18 fonts including Italic.
Designed swash caps and directed Morris Freestyle™.
Designed ITC Avant Garde Pro ligatures for the new OpenType version.
Most recently I have been designing Baskerville Cyrillic and Greek for E reader fonts.

Is type design what you are mainly doing? What is your profession aside from type design?
I am full time type designer at Monotype. Aside from that I occasionally perform jazz piano and do photography professionally. My hobbies include brewing beer and cooking.

Aachen is extremely popular. You see it being used so much that I thought the world needed an entire family of this design ...

What inspired you to design this typeface?
Aachen is extremely popular. You see it being used so much that I thought the world needed an entire family of this design. It is a very successful design, and I wanted to see more weights offered in terms of an Aachen family, so I decided to add them.

Are you influenced by other typefaces by the design of your typeface?
The existing Aachen Bold, designed by Colin Brignall in 1969, set the tone for the entire family. It served as a template for the design that needed to be expanded upon. About a year before I started thinking about doing Aachen, I designed a custom slab serif design for Gatorade similar to Stymie. The research I did for that project helped in the Aachen development, where I analyzed other slab serif favorites of mine, such as Lubalin Graph and Rockwell®. Other influences were Bauer Bodoni® and Melior®.

What techniques did you use creating your font and what was the process for creating the design?
Aachen Bold was my master, and I tried to extrapolate the weight all the way down to a Light. By drawing and testing keyword fonts in text, trial and error got me to something that looked reasonably related to the Bold. Computer interpolation techniques were used to generate weights in between the two masters. In the end, I expanded the weights even further and designed an Extra Light and Ultra Black. The Extra Light, Light, Regular, Bold and Black are true drawn master designs, and the Semilight, Book, Medium and Semibold are computer generated interpolations. The original Bold weight was used as is aside from having to design additional glyphs for extending the character set.

It was difficult to come up with a Light that had a similar feel to the Bold and also look related ...

What was the greatest challenge you faced while creating your typeface?
It was difficult to come up with a Light that had a similar feel to the Bold and also look related. In addition to the difficulty in making the Light look related to the Bold, the Light and Extra Light were extremely difficult to draw so that the shapes looked smooth and even in weight. The Extra Light was by far the most difficult to draw, especially the Italic.

Now that there are additional weights available‚ it is possible to create a complete advertisement or story totally in the Aachen feel ...

Please describe the look and feel of your typeface.
Aachen has a sturdy serious look. It is not surprising that you see the Bold often used for sports, signs, and banners, and in truck, muscle building and power drink advertisements. Now that there are additional weights available, it is possible to create a complete advertisement or story totally in the Aachen feel. Prior to the release of this new design, Aachen always needed to be paired with something else unrelated for text. The new Regular and Light add continuity to the design and expand the range of uses tremendously. I’m sure designers will now be discovering new ways to use Aachen in a broad range of categories from text to display.

The broad range of weights fill a designers need for hierarchy in advertising ...

Are there aspects of the design that you think should be highlighted, or you particularly want the graphic design community to know about your typeface?
Aachen is somewhat condensed, so it saves space and can be used larger providing impact to words that use it. The new Book, Regular and Light with corresponding Italics make Aachen now usable for text. The Extra Light would be an excellent choice for large display graphics with a modern look. The broad range of weights fill a designers need for hierarchy in advertising.

For what applications would you recommend your typeface (posters, text, newspapers, advertisements, etc.)?
The new Aachen family has such a large number of weights, that it would be useful at any size from small text to large display type. The Bold weights are excellent choices for headlines, banners and ads that provide a sturdy powerful feeling, and the Lighter weights add understated options that never existed before for Aachen. The Book and Regular with Italics are good for text, and the Extra Light and Ultra Black add extreme options for extra oomph and finesse.

What are the unique details from which you think they distinguish your typeface?
Aachen is a transitional slab serif with unique short serifs. The letters are tighter spaced as a result of the short serifs. This attribute gives a word set in Aachen more impact. Aachen’s wide range of weights make it more versatile than other designs in the slab serif genera.

What was the reason for you to give the typeface its name and what is the meaning?
The name Aachen for this typeface already existed. I believe it is named after a city in Germany perhaps because it is known for its innovation and engineering and the place where printing and movable type was invented. The following excerpt was taken from Wikipedia: “Around 1439, Gutenberg was involved in a financial misadventure making polished metal mirrors (which were believed to capture holy light from religious relics) for sale to pilgrims to Aachen: in 1439 the city was planning to exhibit its collection of relics from Emperor Charlemagne but the event was delayed by one year due to a severe flood and the capital already spent could not be repaid. When the question of satisfying the investors came up, Gutenberg is said to have promised to share a „secret“. It has been widely speculated that this secret may have been the idea of printing with movable type. Legend has it that the idea came to him „like a ray of light“. See:

Anything else you would like to share?
I am amazed at how much I see Aachen Bold being used tday. I hope my additions to weight make it even more usable and satisfy the urge designers have for more Aachen.
The Know How section offers detailed background knowledge to deal with all enquiries about the use of fonts.

Related products

Neue Aachen™ font family (ITC Library)
Elegy™ font family (ITC Library)
Harmonia Sans™ font family (Monotype Library)
Mythos™ font family