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Name: Wyeth
Designer: Ksenya Samarskaya
Foundry: Solonka Type Foundry
Release Date: In pre-release; contact foundry directly for a test drive

Back story: Samarskaya has been designing type for close to a decade, but always to fill the needs of her clients. “Wyeth is the first font I did because I wanted it in my design practice,” she says. “It was the thing I kept searching for. I love condensed sans faces, but I just couldn’t find one that had the sweet spot I wanted: they were all either way too clean and formal, or they felt a little too old-timey.”

Wyeth’s letterforms are partly inspired by the faded ghost signs Samarskaya saw in Montreal, as well as vintage New York City subway signage. “I love those old IND signs mounted on the station pillars. The enamel! I love the way everything about the lettering was a little funky, slightly off—the way it suddenly got heavy in some places, the way the center bar of the M dips below the baseline. It had this charm I really wanted,” she says.

Why’s it called Wyeth? A great deal of time and thought went into the name. It was important that it be grounded in place, so Samarskaya started with lists of locations, subway stops, and neighborhoods, undergoing a process of trial and error and cross-referencing that took about a year and half (and 141 folders of file versions!) before she landed on the current name. She says, “Naming’s a synesthesia exercise, an aim for the visual and verbal texture to reverberate at the same frequency as that of the typeface.” Unsurprisingly, the name has a wealth of linguistic connotations that resonated for the designer: it’s the typographic equivalent of an Andrew Wyeth landscape; a street of well-used warehouses in New York; a now-defunct pharmaceutical corporation; and suggests a hint of the post-railroad American West.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Wyeth features a set of mini cap letters centered above the baseline, to add a bit of the oddball charm of the subway signs that inspired the typeface. Samarskaya says, “New faces are often so mathematical. It’s okay to show a little use, a little quirk, to mess up the letters, to let a little humanity creep in sometimes. I spent a long time getting the numbers just right, and added custom social icons because I needed them for my own website and I didn’t want to use the existing ones for Twitter, Instagram, and so on.”

What should I use it for? It’s a no-brainer for signage of all sorts, and for titling and headlines, print or web. Wyeth has a cheerful personality not always found in condensed sans serif faces, and the smaller sizes look fantastic for text heavy uses such as menus.

Who’s it friends with? Wyeth works especially nicely with Sign Painter, as well as more refined scripts such as Frauen, but its versatility makes it easily adaptable to just about any pairing.