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Harmonia Sans™

By Monotype

Jim Wasco
Monotype
The Harmonia Sans™ typeface is a fine blend of contemporary geometric sans serif lettershapes and classic calligraphic proportions. Jim Wasco, who was aided by George Ryan in the production of the typeface family, began the design of Harmonia Sans with a single goal in mind. "I wanted to create a simple and legible typeface by pulling the best aspects of classic geometric sans designs, such as Futura and ITC Avant Garde Gothic," Wasco explained. The result is a design suitable for virtually all typographic applications, from text on low-resolution displays to high-resolution print and even architectural signage. The design project, which stretched over two-years, was preceded by several weeks of research and experimentation. "I analyzed many sans serif typeface families before making any trial sketches," recalls Wasco. "It was important to identify the specific issues I wanted to address and design paths I needed to take." Wasco also experimented, exploring new designs that might replace traditional geometric sans letterforms. "I did not want to do something just to be different," he said. "Ultimately, I only used designs that rang absolutely true." Wasco did, however, introduce a very "un-geometric" aspect into the letters he drew for Harmonia Sans. "I wanted to use classic proportions of calligraphic lettering in developing the design and looked at several examples before settling on the work of the sixteenth century master calligrapher, Ludovico degli Arrighi." Arrighi typically used a ratio of five pen widths to establish the proportional relationship between the capitals and lowercase letters. The x-height to cap height ratio in Harmonia Sans is also 5 to 7. The completed Harmonia Sans family is available in five weights ranging from Light to Black, each with a companion cursive Italic. In addition, Wasco drew condensed designs for the Regular, Semi Bold and Bold weights. The complete family is available as a suite of OpenType™ Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of old style figures, arbitrary fractions, tabular figures, proportional figures, discretionary ligatures and stylistic alternates. OpenType Pro fonts also offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.

When Jim Wasco undertook the design of a new sans serif typeface family, he had a two-part goal in mind. He recalls, “I wanted to create a simple, legible typeface that would blend, in a harmonious way, aspects of classic geometric sans serifs – such as the Futura® and ITC Avant Garde Gothic® typefaces – and that would also seem timeless.” Wasco’s design is a classic example of looking back to create something that will seem fresh, even futuristic, going forward.

Wasco began the project with several weeks of research and experimentation. “I made a master matrix and analyzed many sans serif typeface families,” he explains. “I wanted to identify specific traits I admired and also to think about complementary characteristics – before starting to sketch.” Wasco also began exploring new design elements that might replace traditional geometric sans letterforms. “I didn’t want to do anything just to be different. Ultimately, my early experiments didn’t ring true, and I abandoned them,” he acknowledges. Once Wasco had found his design direction, he brought in long-time collaborator George Ryan to help produce the extensive family.

Wasco’s lifelong passion for lettering dates back to his childhood, when his father taught him calligraphy. He also learned about lettering, proper spacing, letter proportions and balance. The knowledge imparted by his father – along with his own illustration skills – formed the foundation of Jim Wasco’s impressive letter art skills. Now a Senior Type Designer at Monotype, Wasco designs both commercial typefaces for the Monotype libraries as well as custom designs for an expanding range of proprietary branding projects.

“To me, type design is like architecture for reading,” asserts Wasco. “The world depends on type to communicate. Most of my designs either solve specific problems or fill a void. Providing solutions and addressing the world’s needs is really a strong motivation for me.”

Wasco’s design infuses grotesque and humanist aspects into the letters of Harmonia Sans. “I decided to use classic proportions of calligraphic lettering in developing the design. For my own calligraphy, I have always used the classic ratio of five pen widths for lowercase to seven pen widths for capitals.” Wasco’s x-height to cap height ratio in Harmonia Sans is also 5:7.

The Harmonia Sans family includes a total of 17 typefaces. Each of the five weights, ranging from light to black, has a companion cursive italic. In addition, Wasco has drawn condensed designs for the regular, semi bold and bold weights. He has designed four monospaced faces as well The complete family is available as a suite of OpenType™ Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of old style figures, arbitrary fractions, tabular figures, proportional figures, discretionary ligatures and stylistic alternates. OpenType Pro fonts also offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.

Additionally, the entire Harmonia Sans family is available as Fonts.com Web Fonts.

“Harmonia Sans is designed for maximum legibility in all alphabets and versions,” confirms Wasco. “We introduced distinctive characteristics in the italic, Greek, Cyrillic and monospaced letterform designs to differentiate them from the Roman and Latin forms. The Greek and Cyrillic letterforms are modern, which further differentiates the scripts from the Latin.” The family is both versatile and a bit lyrical – a combination that will stand the test of time.