Designed by Colin Brignall and published by Letraset in 1969, Aachen™ Bold gained a partner in 1977 in the form of Aachen Medium, which was created in collaboration with Alan Meeks. Aachen, a typeface with a particularly striking appearance, has thus already enjoyed considerable popularity over several decades. Derived from the serif-accented Egyptienne fonts dating to the early 20th century, Aachen has serifs that are very solid but considerably shorter than those of its precursor. The incorporated geometrical elements, such as right angles and straight lines, provide the slender letters of Aachen with a slightly technological, stencil-like quality. Despite this, the effect of Aachen is by no means static; its dynamism means that this typeface, originally designed for use in headlines, has come to be used with particular frequency in sport- and fitness-related contexts.
Jim Wasco, for many years a type designer at Monotype Imaging, recognized the potential of Aachen and decided to extend the typeface to create an entire typeface family. He appropriated the existing Aachen Bold in unchanged form and first created the less heavy cuts, Thin and Regular. Wasco admits that he found designing the forms for Thin a particular challenge. It took him several attempts before he was able to achieve consistency within the glyphs for Thin and, at the same time, retain sufficient affinity with the original Aachen Bold. But he finally managed to adapt the short serifs and the condensed and slightly geometrical quality of the letters to the needs of Thin. The weights Light, Book, Medium and Semibold were generated by means of interpolation. Supplemented by Extralight and Extrabold, the new Neue Aachen can now boast a total of nine different weights.
Wasco initially relied on his predilection for genuine cursives in his designs for the Italic cuts. But it became apparent with these first trial runs that the soft curves of cursives did not suit Aachen and led to the loss of too much of its original character. Wasco thus decided to compromise by using both inclined and cursive letters. Neue Aachen Italic is somewhat narrower than its upright counterparts; the lower case 'a' has a closed form while the 'f' has been given a descender, but the letters have otherwise not been given additional adornments.
The range of glyphs available for Neue Aachen has been significantly extended, so that the typeface can now be used to set texts not only in Western but also Central European languages. Wasco has also added a double-counter lowercase 'g' while relying on the availability of alternative letters in the format sets for the enhancement of the legibility of Neue Aachen when used to set texts.
The seven new weights and completely new Italic variants have enormously increased the potential applications of Aachen and the range of creative options for the designer. While the Bold weights have proved their worth as display fonts, the new Book and Regular cuts are ideal for setting text. And the subtlety of Ultra Light will provide your projects with a quite unique flair. The new possibilities and opportunities in terms of design and applications that Neue Aachen offers you are not restricted to print production; you can also create internet pages thanks to its availability as a web font.
The only member of the original family was Aachen Bold, a typeface drawn for Letraset dry-transfer lettering sheets in 1969. A lighter companion was added in 1977. Although drawn for mid-20th century typesetting technologies, the two-weight Aachen family made an easy transition to digital fonts in the 1990s. “The first designs served as a template for the new family,” recalls Wasco. “About a year before I started thinking about enlarging the original family, I had designed a slab serif typeface based on the Stymie design for a corporate client. As part of that project, I analyzed other slab serif favorites of mine, such as the ITC Lubalin Graph and Rockwell designs. This research had an important influence on Neue Aachen, as did the Bauer Bodoni and Melior typefaces.”
Not satisfied with just expanding the weight range of the original, Wasco decided to add complementary italic faces to his suite of Neue Aachen designs. “For the italic, I did comparison tests between a simple obliquing, or computer skewing, of the design and a true drawn italic,” he says. “I almost always prefer a true drawn Italic, and, in this case, it was an easy choice to go with that option.” He also drew an alternate two-story g for the roman weights to provide an added level of legibility when Neue Aachen is set in smaller sizes.
Wasco is a senior type designer at Monotype Imaging, where he designs commercial typefaces, like his Elegy and Harmonia Sans designs, and he creates custom branding fonts for corporate clients – including several Fortune 500 companies. When he’s not designing typefaces, Wasco directs outside design projects and coordinates collaborative design teams.
When asked about Neue Aachen’s range of uses, Wasco replies, “Aachen has a sturdy serious look. It is not surprising that we’ve seen the bold weight used for sports signage and banners, in addition to truck and power drink advertisements. Now that additional weights are available, the family will be an excellent choice for an even wider range of applications. I’m sure graphic designers will discover new uses for Neue Aachen in a broad range of text and display projects.”
The Neue Aachen family includes nine weights, from ultra light to black, each with an italic complement – for a total of 18 styles . The family is also available as a suite of OpenType Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of ligatures, fractions – and the alternate g. Pro fonts also include an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.