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Jose Cuervo

Custom typeface

"Jose Cuervo" set in the Pepino and Pia typefaces on blue background
"Jose Cuervo" set in the Pepino and Sal typefaces on an orange background
"Jose Cuervo" set in the Pepino and Hielo typefaces on green background
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What happens when you combine an award-winning advertising agency, a spirited lettering artist, the world’s best-selling tequila, and XYZ Type? You get a unique combination of sign painting and typographic technical know-how that delivers above and beyond for the client.

Inspired by classic Mexican sign painting

Advertising agency Mekanism commissioned Mexican-born, NYC-based lettering artist Abraham Lule to create custom sign painting by hand for tequila brand Jose Cuervo. Ben Kiel translated the painted artwork into working color fonts that Mekanism could use in print and digital advertisements.

In celebration of Jose Cuervo’s two-century-old business in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Abraham painted energetic letterforms in six distinct styles based on classic Mexican sign painting, including a rigid block style, a casual script, and a gothic with a 3D drop shadow. All told, he painted nearly a thousand glyphs and scanned the best examples, which became the basis for Ben’s work.

This complex job couldn’t be completed without the expertise and optimism of someone like Ben Kiel. Of the many challenges involved in designing bespoke fonts, this project included retaining the transparencies of sign painting into each character through pixels, not vectorial images, which is a rarity in our field.

Abraham Lule, lettering artist

Technical know-how and aesthetic precision

Ben called on his unique combination of technical acumen in font engineering, coding, and type design to strategically address the thorny problems of turning complex, colorful lettering into usable font files.

The first step was to determine the best technology for the job. To create color fonts, Ben knew that he could use either vector or raster formats, and that each had pros and cons. 

It was a whole nerdfest, how to get it to work.

Ben Kiel, XYZ Type

Vector-based fonts would produce relatively small files and would be easy to scale to large sizes, but they would also look digital and feel less authentic. Raster files would keep the brush texture of the original lettering, but with downsides in file size and software compatibility.

To meet the technical requirements without compromising the lettering’s “perfectly imperfect” aesthetic, Mekanism decided they needed the flexibility to have it both ways. So, Ben built all the fonts twice. 

Jose Cuervo Pepino’s OpenType code in action.

To create fonts up to speed with the latest technologies, he used custom shell scripts, unique Photoshop workflows, and special Robofont tricks. And for the script typeface’s contextual alternates, he wrote intelligent OpenType code to deploy Abraham’s many glyph paintings into a spontaneous flow with smooth connections.

Throughout the process, Ben’s confidence and clarity of speech helped me focus on the design of the characters. At the same time, he successfully turned the letters into fonts, alleviating the pressure of a project of this scale. He delivered on every single detail above and beyond.

Abraham Lule, Lettering Artist
A billboard ad for Jose Cuervo tequila

Jose Cuervo Hielo, Agave, and Lima in use. The fonts have been used across all major markets in the United States for the past two years running. Photo courtesy Mekanism.

A banner ad for Jose Cuervo tequila

Jose Cuervo Pepino and Sal in use. Image courtesy Mekanism.

A web ad for Jose Cuervo tequila

Jose Cuervo Lima, Hielo, and Sal in use for social media marketing.

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Delivering the goods

Ben developed special shell scripts and unique Photoshop workflows, and pulled some special RoboFont tricks out of his hat, to help create an unorthodox family of six typeface styles with tequila-inspired names. And through clever problem-solving and some highly skilled sign painting, together Ben and Abraham distilled an iconic Mexican aesthetic into a refreshing voice for Jose Cuervo.

"Agave" set in the typeface of the same name

Agave, a casual script with a drop shadow.

Sample text in the Agave typeface

Agave, a casual script with a drop shadow.

Character set of the Agave typeface

Agave, a casual script with a drop shadow.

"Lima" set in the typeface of the same name

Lima, a rounded sans serif with a drop shadow.

Sample text in the Lima typeface

Lima, a rounded sans serif with a drop shadow.

Character set of the Lima typeface

Lima, a rounded sans serif with a drop shadow.

"Hielo" set in the typeface of the same name

Hielo, a vertical rounded gothic with a drop shadow.

Sample text in the Hielo typeface

Hielo, a vertical rounded gothic with a drop shadow.

Character set of the Hielo typeface

Hielo, a vertical rounded gothic with a drop shadow.

"Piña" set in the typeface of the same name

Piña, a block lettering style with a drop shadow.

Sample text in the Piña typeface

Piña, a block lettering style with a drop shadow.

Character set of the Piña typeface

Piña, a block lettering style with a drop shadow.

"Pepino" set in the typeface of the same name

Pepino, a connected script with many alternate glyphs.

Sample text in the Pepino typeface

Pepino, a connected script with many alternate glyphs.

Character set of the Pepino typeface

Pepino, a connected script with many alternate glyphs.

"Sal" set in the typeface of the same name

Sal, a gothic with a 3D bevel and drop shadow.

Sample text in the Sal typeface

Sal, a gothic with a 3D bevel and drop shadow.

Character set of the Sal typeface

Sal, a gothic with a 3D bevel and drop shadow.

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