Jen Wagner, Font Designer
Classic, bold, italic. This is all which many people think fonts can be - before discovering gems like the beautiful fonts created by the talented designer from Nashville, Jen Wagner. Driven by her creative mind, Jen has proved that fonts can be colorful, captivating and oh so fun!
After accidentally stumbling upon font design, Jen quickly realized that this was her call. So she turned a newfound hobby into a successful career, during which she has helped transform the way people perceive types.
In our conversation with Jen, she touches upon the process of creating font art, the modern use of fonts, as well as her dreams and behind the scenes secrets.
Hi Jen, it’s great to meet you! Could you tell us how you got started? How did you become a font designer?
It’s great to meet you as well! 🙂 I actually stumbled into font design. I did a lot of hand lettering work as a freelance designer, and during a painfully long dry spell with work, I started experimenting with designing type.
It was one of those weird things that kind of just immediately clicked for me! I’ve been doing it ever since!
One of Jen's newest font duos, called Tangerine Skies
How did you learn the skills for that?
I’m a self-taught designer, and you can kind of see that in the evolution of my fonts from three years ago to today. More recently, it’s been a lot of reading type design books (Designing Type is my favorite so far!).
I’m also applying for a type design summer program for 2020, so I guess you could say the learning process is kind of unending, which I enjoy. There’s always something new to learn in the world of type, and that keeps it really interesting.
How does the process of a new font design typically start?
The design process usually begins with a single letter, and then expands from there! Sometimes I’ll create in Illustrator or on my iPad, and other times I’ll sketch out letter concepts on a piece of scrap paper.
Type design is (in my experience) very mathematical, so having an idea for 3-5 letters is usually enough to inform the rest of the type set!
Part of the design process of making fonts
You sell your fonts on marketplaces like Creative Market and also your own website. Which font has been the most popular one so far?
I think both of those fonts offered something really unique to the marketplace. Tokyo was a really unique font at the time I released it because no one had done an automatically offsetting typeface before (at least, not that I’d seen!).
I noticed layering solid text with an offset outline layer on top of it was gaining popularity in the design world, so I designed Tokyo to make that process really easy for novice designers.
Modena, on the other hand, provided the marketplace with something that was bold, yet feminine. So you have this really pretty, but still messy script paired with a super bold, classic, high-fashion type sans serif. The combo was just magic – I think it was something designers were looking for and didn’t even realize it.
Historically, my successful products have come from solving a problem that I myself have come upon in my design work. We’re all designers, so if I’m getting frustrated with something, the odds are that a lot of other designers are too! If I can create something that alleviates that frustration, that’s a product that will probably sell really well.
It might be a forbidden question - but which one is the favorite font of yours?
Every new release, haha. I find myself continually saying, “Okay, but THIS one is my new favorite!” with every subsequent release.
I think it’s just fun to see yourself getting better with every new product, and it makes the process of creating a lot more exciting when you know you’ll get to the end of it and (most of the time) be really excited about what you’ve made.
But if I had to pick one, I think Rylan is my current favorite.
Jen's favorite font Rylan in use
I feel that fonts are still a very designer-ish topic. Many people don’t care about fonts but still “feel it” when fonts are chosen or combined by a professional. Do you feel that people are getting more attentive to the topic, given the visual world of social media?
I would like to think so, but I honestly don’t know! I’ve always noticed those things, even since I was a kid, so my experience is probably a little skewed.
But I think creatives in general are typically better at noticing those things, and most creative types have the basic design knowledge now to rationalize what may be “off” about something.
So I guess all of that is to say, yes! I think people are definitely getting more attentive to type design and its importance in the design world at large.
What would you dive into if you had an additional 10 hours a day for whatever project or activity you want?
Interior design, for sure. I could spend any amount of time doing that. My husband and I have this big detached garage behind our house that we’re wanting to convert into an AirBnb, and so most of our work time (and overtime!) is with the intention of raising the money to fund that project.
So in a super practical sense, I would probably spend that extra 10 hours a day creating more fonts, resources, courses, etc. so that we could reach that goal faster!
I also love making music. My husband is a professional musician and producer (his band is called Veaux!), so we love spending our “down time” creating music together.
What a work-in-progress font looks like
Being a creative person, are there other areas in your life where you like to look at the design of things?
Absolutely! Architecture and interior design are big ones, but I also love old magazines and high fashion. There’s so much amazing design out there off of our screens – it can be so amazing to get your hands dirty and be inspired elsewhere!
What is up for you next at JenWagnerCo?
Lots of instruction! I have two courses coming out in October (one teaching hand lettering, and the other on graphic design for bloggers), so the next month is going to be spent getting those together. Those will be over at jenwagner.co/courses.
I am also launching a collaborative graphic design blog in September called Make Great Design. It’s basically just me and a few amazing designer friends talking about our experience as freelancers, sharing tips and techniques, how we stay motivated, etc. I think it’s going to be a ton of fun!
Inspiration via Jen's Instagram account
Do you want to share your 3-5 favorite Instagram accounts that inspire you?
- @soultwinstudio – Lindsey Pruitt and her team are unreal
- @chrislovesjulia – their interior design ideas get me into trouble sometimes, haha!
- @jakealexarnold – another interior designer whose work is just to die for
- @sarahshermansamuel – clearly I love interior design haha. Her use of lines, texture, and color is super inspiring for graphic design
- @olgavasik – she designs the most incredible type. She’s been really inspiring me to get into more experimental type