Ben Kiel and Jesse Ragan make useful, quietly offbeat fonts at their independent digital foundry, XYZ Type, which operates in the interwebs between St. Louis and New York. After hiring each other back and forth and realizing they worked well together, the pair launched XYZ Type in 2017 to merge their respective strengths and extensive experience crafting typefaces and lettering for major brands, cultural institutions, and publications.
Their custom and retail projects mutually reinforce one another—some begin life as client commissions, while others are speculative designs that Ben and Jesse believe fill a commercial niche. XYZ Type draws original typefaces and logotypes from scratch, customizes versions of their retail typefaces to tailor them to a client’s specific needs, and fine-tunes client logotype sketches. They thrive on collaboration with people who are as fired up about type as they are. Energized by history, vernacular lettering, and unorthodox graphic design practice, Ben and Jesse chase new ideas for typefaces that are as clever as they are technologically robust. Their meticulous development process often takes surprising twists and turns, arriving at small but significant moments of discovery that mark XYZ Type’s designs as uniquely theirs.
Ben Kiel is a typeface designer, educator, and partner in XYZ Type, which he cofounded with Jesse Ragan in 2017. He practices design and technical wizardry out of XYZ Type’s intergalactic headquarters: a minimalist shed with a direct Cat6 internet connection in St. Louis, Missouri. After receiving his MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading in the UK, Ben kicked off his career at House Industries, where he designed and developed custom and retail fonts. He then had a solo design practice for several years before joining forces with Jesse. When he’s not making fonts or unraveling thorny issues at the intersection of design and technology, Ben teaches at Washington University in St. Louis and Type@Cooper in New York. He loves nineteenth-century type and has the library to prove it.
Jesse Ragan designs a broad range of typefaces for XYZ Type, which he and Ben Kiel launched in 2017. Beyond making fonts from scratch, Jesse also specializes in customizing lettering for logotypes and helping clients understand how letterforms tick. Whether refining a global brand identity or making a custom typeface for a cultural institution, he solves the puzzle of every assignment with systematic thinking and strategic historical references. Jesse studied graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design. After interning at Font Bureau, he began his career at Hoefler & Frere-Jones before going out on his own for a decade. He cofounded Type@Cooper, has served on AIGA NY’s board of directors, and has taught at Cooper Union and Pratt Institute.