Source of inspiration for Export. Courtesy Jesse Ragan/XYZ Type.

Name: Export
Designer: Jesse Ragan
Foundry: XYZ Type
Release Date: May 2017​

Back story: It all began the night Ragan was strolling through Chinatown and spotted some cardboard boxes crudely printed with crazy handmade lettering dreamed up by an anonymous craftsperson in China. Ragan describes the encounter a little more formally. “The unexpected but cohesive structural vocabulary of the letterforms, which I would never have devised myself, suggested an unfamiliarity with the Latin alphabet,” he says. “I couldn’t resist the challenge of rationalizing that lettering into a typeface while preserving the apparent chaos that charmed me in the first place.”

Why’s it called Export? Ultimately, it came down to a gut feeling. Ragan says, “Naming a typeface is very tricky. The main concerns are the semantic meaning, the way the word sounds, and, a little bit, how good the word looks when spelled out in the typeface. Export seemed like a natural fit for this one, given its inspiration and overall aesthetic.”

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Its clever system of unconventional structures breaks with typographic doctrine, aiming for a so-bad-it’s-good effect. Inflated shapes bulge into pinched counterforms, while rough edges give a worn finish to its blocky characters. Export Stencil breaks through the letterforms in weird and non-traditional (but good) ways, and its shapes play nicely with the non-stencil letterforms. True to the typeface’s cardboard-box heritage, the family includes a distinctive collection of shipping caution symbols and arrows.

Fall-in-love moment: there are two sets of symbols to match either style of character.

What should I use it for? “Given the right context, it could be comfortable in a wide range of settings: on toy packaging, in an ad for a pickup truck, or in the catalog for an art exhibition,” says Ragan. “I asked my colleague Nick Sherman, and his answer was, ‘people who have a rare opportunity to use a weird face and want to take as much advantage of that opportunity as possible.’” Life is more fun when we take advantage of opportunities to use a weird face, right?

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Ragan likes it with David Jonathan Ross’ Turnip, which has a similarly quirky tone, sharp corners, and bulky shapes. It could also contrast nicely with a more formal crisp serif typeface, like Kai Bernau’s Lyon or Kent Lew’s Whitman