Featured image for NYC Agency The Working Assembly Launches Independent Type Foundry

NYC Agency The Working Assembly Launches Independent Type Foundry

by Bill McCool on 10/25/2022 | 4 Minute Read

At some point, it seemed like every significant brand redesign didn't just get a new logo or workdmark—they also got a proprietary typeface. Netflix got Netflix Sans, Dunkin' runs on Dunkin' Sans, and Burger King grills it up with Flame Sans. 

If you’re in the business of branding, and agencies have fast become the new type foundries, in all but name only, shouldn't they just start a type house themselves?

Well, that’s just what New York City’s The Working Assembly (TWA) has done. Last week, the agency announced that it would be launching Work Type, and the sister studio will focus on the development of bespoke and distinct pieces of typography.

“As designers, we obviously work with a lot of type. One of the things we've always prided ourselves on is that we do a lot of type design, right down to designing the letters when we're making wordmarks or other designs. More often than not, we’re creating something from scratch,” says Lawrence O’Toole, partner and head of design at TWA. "That's led to a couple of opportunities to introduce bespoke fonts to clients as options for fleshing out an entire branding system, but it's also given us a lot of material. We've got a lot of experience building letters, building sets of letters, and building families of similar-looking letters."

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The new studio will be spearheaded by one of TWA’s type designers, Christian Dexter. His background is in typeface design and lettering, but he initially came to TWA to get a little more experience on the branding side of things. He also knew the agency wanted to expand into new, unexplored avenues, and in his off time last year, Dexter started developing the idea of Work Type on nights and weekends. When he took the project to the team, they greenlit it almost immediately, and they were excited about the prospect of developing custom typefaces for retail sales.

“Part of our ethos has been to encourage team members to not only get entrepreneurial but also to think about ways that we can contribute and amplify design and our process within the industry,” says Jolene Delisle, founder and head of creative at TWA. “As an agency, it's important to make time for these personal passion projects that maybe aren’t client-initiated but are interesting and offer a different perspective.

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Still, that overall love of type propelled them to form the new foundry. Since 2017, the agency has worked with countless clients. But in that time, they’ve also amassed quite a lot of work. “We have this kind of like—I don't want to say trash can—but maybe filing cabinet with things that get thrown aside because they don't get approved or we don't think they're the right feel for the project,” says Christian Dexter. 

“We'll come up with, you know, 35 different ‘N’s’ for a client, and some of them are super cool,” adds Lawrence. “They didn't work out for whatever word mark or the project it was intended for. But now we've got this stack of ‘N’s’ which are dying to get used.” Ultimately, it presented the agency an opportunity to share some of the beautiful work they’ve created over the years. 

“It’s this giant library of sketches and type we've explored that we really want to release to the world, and we feel like the type foundry is a great way that we can do that,” says Dexter.

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The agency will launch two typefaces this Halloween, October 31st. The first is TWA Brik, a bold and declarative sans serif that found inspiration in New York street signs. The typeface found a home on a beer brewed by Five Boroughs Brewing Company just for the launch of Work Type (sadly, it’s an IPA we’ll never get to try as it was only available at the studio’s launch party). The second is TWA Assembly Sans, an alluring sans with plenty of personality—i.e., not as geometric—that comes in seven weights from extra light to super black.

The studio has a third typeface which should see the light of day before year’s end, in addition to four type families coming in 2023. What’s more, the studio also has a monthly type club available on a subscription basis. Of course, you won’t be getting the usual 26 letters and company, as the initiative is more experimental and will revolve around a monthly theme. The subscription will come in at $84 annually and $7 per month and will cover the commercial license.

Fun, themed offerings aside, Work Type sees itself as having a unique approach. Whereas your typical type house will create different families of fonts, they’re still a branding agency first.

“Many type designers and type foundries exist in a bubble or in that world of type foundry and type design,” Dexter says. “We want to look at type as a tool that contributes to design and branding while having a unique voice and perspective. We're crafting type with that in mind—as something for branding agencies or identity design. It's not just, you know, another sans serif that’s going to hit the market.”