Posts Tagged ‘jim wasco’

by Alyson Kuhn

Jim Wasco loves to talk about type, and when he does, he enthuses equally about highly specific details on the one hand, and the typographic big picture on the other. It’s not an either/or discussion – it’s a seamless interplay of influences and inspirations. With Wasco, you can indeed have it both ways. His newest typeface design, the Harmonia Sans family, is a perfect example.

Harmonia Sans

The name Harmonia Sans alludes to harmony in two realms, music and typography – and on two levels, the individual and the collective. Each musical note must be ‘right’ on its own, to ring true with the other notes in the phrase, and it must add to the composition as a whole. (Wasco, by the way, plays jazz piano every week as part of a sextet.) The letterforms of a typeface are even more inter-dependent, in that they must achieve visual harmony in almost infinite combinations. On the ‘collective continuum,’ Harmonia Sans also blends what Wasco describes as his “favorite aspects of the different sans – grotesque, humanist and geometric” in a new geometric design. He adds, “Harmonia Sans is geometric because the letters are based on a square, circle and triangle, just like architecture.”


The alignment comparison above illustrates Wasco’s decision to use calligraphic cap to x-height proportions for Harmonia Sans. The ITC Avant Garde Gothic design has a larger x-height, and relatively short ascenders and descenders, while the Futura family has a smaller x-height, with elongated ascenders and descenders. Wasco determined that the calligraphic proportions would serve to increase both legibility and typographic harmony.

Calligraphy instruction sheet from Paul Standard (circa 1950)

Calligraphy instruction sheet from Paul Standard (circa 1950)

Wasco neatly sums up his ‘calligraphic lineage’: “Dad went to The Cooper Union in the ‘50s. His calligraphy teacher was Paul Standard, who was a friend of Hermann Zapf’s. When I met Hermann, I mentioned Paul – and his face lit up. Many people credit Paul with popularizing calligraphy in America in the ‘50s.” Standard’s calligraphy instruction sheet above is based on a cap to x-height ratio of 7.5 to 5.

Calligraphy by Jim Wasco:  banner on a piano recital invitation (2007)

Calligraphy by Jim Wasco: banner on a piano recital invitation (2007)

Wasco has always favored a ratio of 7:5 for his own calligraphy, and the Harmonia Sans proportion is close to 7:5 as well. Click here to learn more about – and to license – the Harmonia Sans family.


Alyson Kuhn
Alyson Kuhn (a.k.a. Kuhncierge) writes frequently about paper and printing, including typography and postage stamps. On occasion, she teaches envelope-folding workshops. She lives in Carmel, California.


by Allan Haley

The Aachen typeface dates back to the late 1960s when Colin Brignall designed it for Letraset dry transfer lettering sheets. Named after the German city where many believe Gutenberg first used moveable type, Aachen’s bold weight and short, slab serifs made it a natural choice for display typography. A lighter (medium) complement was drawn in the late 1970s but the bold design continued to be the most popular design. Aachen was made available as phototype fonts in the 1970s and digital fonts in the early 1990s – but the family retained its diminutive size.

Realizing that more weights would dramatically increase Aachen’s range of use, Jim Wasco – a senior type designer at Monotype Imaging – put together a proposal that would bring the family into the 21st century.

“I was amazed at how much I saw the old Aachen Bold being used and I thought that a larger family would be welcomed by graphic designers,” says Wasco. “I hope my redesign and enlargement of the original family make it more versatile – and will satisfy the desire designers seem to have for more Aachen.”

The happy result of Wasco’s proposal is Neue Aachen, a family of 9 weights, from ultra light to black, each with an italic complement – for a total of 18 styles. Neue Aachen is also available as a suite of OpenType Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of ligatures, fractions – and a special alternate g that Wasco felt added a distinctive quality to the design. Pro fonts also include an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.

When asked about how his design improved the versatility of Neue Aachen, Wasco replied, “The family can now be put to work at any size from small text to large display applications. The bold weights can be excellent choices for headlines, banners and ads. The book and regular were drawn for text setting, and the extra light and ultra black weights add extra oomph – or a touch of finesse – to large display copy.”

Wasco’s revitalization of Neue Aachen takes a 40-year-old design – with a heritage that dates back to the first fonts of movable type – fully into the 21st century.

The complete Neue Aachen family is available as desktop fonts from the, and websites. It is also available as dynamically downloadable Web fonts.

Click here to learn more about – and license – the Neue Aachen family.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.

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