• Steven Heller

A Face Is Born

Jesse Ragan, co-proprietor of the XYZ Type foundry, has recently released his latest typeface. Aglet Sans and Aglet Slab “view roundness as a fundamental structural element rather than mere embellishment or afterthought,” notes Ragan. Both typefaces consist of seven weights with corresponding italics and extensive symbols designed to match each weight. The Extra Light is almost like a wireframe of the characters, which become more varied and complex as they grow heavier.

Ragan hasn’t simply lopped off serifs—he has thoroughly and sensitively redrawn the face. Other features include an extensive set of thoughtful symbols designed to match each weight, including arrows, ballot boxes, checkmarks, and stars. The glyph set also contains alternates for g and a; simplified versions of i, j, and l; standard ligatures; proportional and tabular lining figures; and arbitrary fractions. Aglet Sans, a technical face with a human touch, is available for desktop, web, and apps directly from xyztype.com, as well as through distributors Fontstand and Type Network. I spoke to Ragan about the face and his passion for type.

You have been designing typefaces for a long time. What is the greatest pleasure in doing so?

Typeface design is all about problem-solving. And most of the time, I’m solving the same problems over and over again. The greatest reward is finding a solution which feels unexpected yet completely natural. If I hit one or two of those fleeting moments in a single typeface, it may be unique enough to be worthwhile.

How does Aglet satisfy your aesthetic and the purpose it was designed in the first place?

I often work with branding agencies, designing custom lettering for logotypes. Aglet emerged from my lettering sketches for several projects which called for a technological tone, while emphasizing the humanity of the product or service. Those sketches were always well-received, but none of them were accepted in the end. I decided to run with the idea on my own and set out to design Aglet.

Whatever the conceit of a typeface, I’m always interested in finding a way to root that conceit as deeply in the design as possible. For Aglet Sans & Slab, the conceit is systematic roundness. Some typefaces take the approach of applying corner-rounding onto an existing structure—and that can be a valuable effect. But for Aglet, I wanted to draw shapes that couldn’t function if the corners were not round.

I hit on the idea of rounding all the corners but building out a system for the roundness that’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Each corner is rounded in its own way. It’s systematic, but a system built on human judgment calls. I combined the warmth of that roundness with geometric structure and standardized angles, which are shortcuts to a technological aesthetic. The resulting effect is, I hope, something like handmade parts of a machine, tailored to work in perfect harmony.

What does Aglet mean?

An aglet is the small endcap on a shoelace. Aglet’s rounded endcaps similarly serve dual purposes of style and function. It’s also a fun word and looks great when typed out in the typeface, which is always a win. I have to credit my old studio-mate Michael Raisanen, who suggested the name many years ago, before I started the typeface. I’d filed it away as an idea to use one day, and it was the perfect fit for this design.

Are there more in the type family in the birth canal?

So many! You’re catching me at the moment when I’m trying to decide which of several in-progress typefaces to focus my attention on. Most likely, my next retail release through XYZ Type will be Escalator, a geometric sans. It seems a little crazy to make another typeface in that overfull genre, but it started as a client commission, and I liked where it went. I think I may just have found enough of those unique moments to make it worthwhile.

#Aglet #DailyHeller #StevenHeller #Typefaces