Ben Kiel and Jesse Ragan make useful, quietly offbeat fonts at their independent digital foundry, XYZ Type, which operates in the interwebs between St. Louis and New York. After hiring each other back and forth and realizing they worked well together, the pair launched XYZ Type in 2017 to merge their respective strengths and extensive experience crafting typefaces and lettering for major brands, cultural institutions, and publications.
Their custom and retail projects mutually reinforce one another—some begin life as client commissions, while others are speculative designs that Ben and Jesse believe fill a commercial niche. XYZ Type draws original typefaces and logotypes from scratch, customizes versions of their retail typefaces to tailor them to a client’s specific needs, and fine-tunes client logotype sketches. They thrive on collaboration with people who are as fired up about type as they are.
Energized by history, vernacular lettering, and unorthodox graphic design practice, Ben and Jesse chase new ideas for typefaces that are as clever as they are technologically robust. Their meticulous development process often takes surprising twists and turns, arriving at small but significant moments of discovery that mark XYZ Type’s designs as uniquely theirs.
Many of our retail fonts started out as client commissions. Working backward from a real-world application gives the typeface a clear point of view and increases the likelihood that it will be useful to a broader audience.
—Ben Kiel & Jesse Ragan