Font Designer – Jim Wasco

Jim Wasco, master lettering artist, photographer, jazz pianist, chef and home brewer.
Jim Wasco began a lifelong passion for lettering at the age of 12, when his father taught him calligraphy. He spent his childhood in New Jersey and Vermont in a family of art and music. His parents encouraged him to draw, build, design, cook and play music. His childhood home was filled with the sounds of Stan Getz’s bossa nova, Frank Sinatra and Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz records, along with strong words of encouragement to follow his dreams as an artist.

He says, “All my life I would be getting art instruction from my father.” His father is a photographer and art teacher.

Jim studied illustration with Aaron Tager, a friend of his father. Tager was a major influence in his design work, teaching him how to draw from the Right Side of the Brain.

With his father’s guidance, a reproduction of the book Operina, by Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, and an instruction sheet for Chancery Cursive (based on Arrighi’s Operina) Jim learned calligraphy.

He tells the story of that formative introduction, “My father taught me about lettering, proper spacing, letter proportions and balance. Rules like: a letter should be unique and not ever confused with a different letter; Type should not distract from readability; The white space and black space are equally important; Round shapes need to be larger to appear the same as square shapes; Weights of round, diagonal and straight strokes need to match optically.”

It was this knowledge along with his illustration skills that formed the basic fundamentals for his type design business. Jim explains, “I realized that I had a gift of understanding letterforms. These things came to me naturally as common sense.”

Jim moved to Oakland, California in the summer of 1974 and started his own calligraphy-based business. He worked with Jim Parkinson, doing commercial art in pen and ink, specializing in hand lettering. Many of the alphabets they drew ended up as fonts on photographic typesetting machines, and he assisted Jim with his alphabet design for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Jim’s business prospered over next 15 years. From painting signs for small Bay Area shops like Peet’s Coffee & Teas to screen-printing huge banners for Albertson’s and Bank of America, and to helping manage an instant offset printing business, Jim immersed himself in the world of print and graphic design. He continued doing hand lettering, and worked with some of the nationally known ad agencies, such as Primo Angeli, Hal Riney & Partners, and Landor & Associates.

After 12 years of running his own business, he realized that the future in graphic design was on computers, so he pursued a job designing type on computers.

In 1986, Jim went to work full time at SlideTek, a company that offered a turnkey computer graphics system in Sausalito, California. He spent two-and-a-half years digitizing over a hundred fonts for their system. After SlideTek, Jim worked in the Type Department at Adobe for 13 years, and was involved with producing fonts Adobe licensed from the ITC, Berthold, Linotype and Monotype type libraries, as well as the Adobe Original typeface designs. Jim’s signature style can be found on typefaces such as Tekton™ Bold and Mythos™.

In 2002, he left Adobe and joined Monotype. At Monotype he has designed custom fonts for Microsoft (Wasco Sans), AT&T (Sphere), and Gatorade. His most recent designs are Elegy™ and Harmonia Sans™ released in 2010. When he’s not creating his own typeface, Jim can be found co-designing award-winning fonts, directing outside designers, and coordinating collaborative design teams. He also served for three years on the Review Board at Silicon Valley College, and has taught workshops on Hand Lettering and Making Fonts For Software Companies at SoTA (Society of Typographic Aficionados).

Currently Jim is a Senior Type Designer in Monotype’s Font Development group, and works out of the San Mateo office in California. He lives in Pacifica with his wife Robin, who is CFO at a small school district in Woodside, California. They have three grown children. He started his own homebrew club, Coast Masters of Pacifica in 1999. Once a week he holds Latin Jazz jam sessions at his house for which he plays piano. Roscoe, a six year old Brittany breed dog, and Jaspurr, a Snowshoe breed cat are the newest additions to Jim’s household.

Examples from portfolio, Illustrations – Map, old “flower Power” lettering, Franzia logo,
Otis Spunkmeyer, Calistoga billboards, drawings, etc. …

Read also the interview with Jim Wasco.

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