I love geometric sans serifs, their crispness and rationality. Le Havre taps into this style, but for a while, I’ve wanted to create a font recalling the printed Futura of the 1940s, which seems to have an elusive quality all its own. After seeing an old manual on a World War II ship, I developed a plan for “Le Havre Metal” but chose to shelve the project due to Le Havre’s small x-height. That’s where Steagal comes in.
When Robbie de Villiers and I began the Chatype project in early 2012 (a project which led one publication to label me the Edward Johnston of Chattanooga!), we started closely studying the vernacular lettering of Chattanooga. During that time, I also visited Switzerland, where I saw how designers were using a new, handmade aesthetic with a geometric base. I was motivated to make a new face combining some of these same influences. The primary inspiration for the new design came from the hand-lettering of sign painters in the United States, circa 1930s through 1950s. My Chatype research turned up a poster from the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which exhibited a number of quirks from the unique hand and style of one of these sign artists.
Completing the first draft of Steagal, however, I found that the face appeared somewhat European in character. I turned then to the work of Morris Fuller Benton for a distinctly American take and discovered a number of features that would help define Steagal as a “1930s American” vernacular typeface—features I later learned also inspired Morris Fuller Benton’s Eagle. The overall development of Steagal was surprisingly difficult, knowing when to deliberately distort optical artifacts and when to keep them in place. Part of type design is correcting optical illusions, and I found myself absentmindedly adjusting the optical effects. In the end, though, I was able to draw inspiration from period signs, inscriptions, period posters, and architecture while retaining just enough of the naive sensibility.
Steagal has softened edges, which simulate brush strokes and retain the feeling of the human hand. The standard version has unique quirks that are not too intrusive. Overshoots have almost been eliminated, and joins have minimal corrections. The rounded forms are mathematically perfect, geometric figures without optical corrections. As a variation to the standard, the “Rough” version stands as the “bad signpainter” version with plenty of character.
Steagal Regular comes in five weights and is packed with OpenType features. Steagal includes three Art Deco Alternate sets, optically compensated rounded forms, a monospaced variant, and numerous other features. In all, there are over 200 alternate characters. To see these features in action, please see the informative .pdf brochure. OpenType capable applications such as Quark or the Adobe Creative suite can take full advantage of the automatically replacing ligatures and alternates. Steagal also includes support for all Western European languages.
Steagal is a great way to subtly draw attention to your work. Its unique quirks grab the eye with a authority that few typefaces possess. Embrace its vernacular, hand-brushed look, and see what this geometric sans serif can do for you.