“What if Gill Kayo didn’t look so dumb?” 🤔
Okay began as an attempt to reconsider the stupidity of Kayo. But it turns out Kayo’s goofy design is what makes it such a great typeface. Trying to normalize it was, ironically, a dumb idea itself. Like a design lobotomy. But here we are...
Okay is an extra-bold, kinda-humanist display sans. Instead of the heavy-handed slapstick look of Kayo, Okay is dry and sarcastic. It’s more Richard Ayoade than Benny Hill, if that makes any sense. Though it only comes in one very bold weight, Okay has multiple widths and an alternate set of shorter extenders to make it a versatile little family for setting punchy and warm headlines.
A Bold Display Family
With little counterforms and tight spacing, Okay was designed to be used big. But using bold fonts for headlines can be a challenge. Display typography requires a careful balance of size and space. Things need to be large enough to make an impact, but not so large that you constantly run out of space. This balance is especially difficult to maintain with bold sans serifs, which tend to get wider and more awkward as they get heavier. With this in mind, Okay was designed with features to make it a little more versatile and a little easier to use at display sizes. There are narrower styles to help fit more text into a line (or make things larger). There is set of alternate 'short' glyphs that can be used to cram lines closer together. And there is a variable font version that, hopefully, will make using these features even easier.
Width / Space
With horizontal space at a premium, the most useful feature for a display typeface are narrower widths. In addition to the normal 'Black' style, Okay has both a 'Narrow' and a 'Condensed' option. With them you can fit more characters into a line, or you can keep your line lengths the same and use a much bigger font size.
Height / Space
Depending on your perspective Okay either has a massive x-height or a really short cap-height. Either way the ascenders and descenders stick out a lot. In a typeface designed for text having long extenders would increase legibility. I’m not sure if that’s true at display sizes but there are other benefits. The long extenders give enough room above the x-height to comfortably draw letters like f and i. They also help balance Okay’s beefy proportions, adding a little detail vertically to make more interesting word-shapes. Most importantly, I think they look nice.
At least they look nice when used on a single line of text. Long extenders can be problematic when you have multiple lines or are trying to fit something into a tight vertical space. Headlines often require right leading and no one likes awkward vertical collisions. To help give you more room to smoosh things together, Okay has an alternate set of shorter extending characters. You can get at them by applying Stylistic Set #02 either to entire blocks of text or to individual letters.
Okay’s italic styles have an another set of alternate characters with round-tops. This is a more traditional humanist form and that gives text a slightly different texture than the saw-tooth rhythm of the default bowl and stem forms. These alternates include the characters a, g, and q, their accents, and the short extender versions. You can turn them on using Stylistic Set #03.
Ligatures / Contextual Alternates
Ligatures are an elegant way to resolve the awkward collisions and spaces that can happen with certain strings of letters like 'ffl'. So it's no surprise they can be really useful in a display typeface. But in some typefaces they just don't work, especially when things get bold. Instead of trying to force things by smashing together a blob of shapes and calling it a ligature, Okay uses a set of narrower fs to create unconnected ligatures. They're not as fancy and connected ligatures, but they are nicely spaced and, more importantly, they are readable. These forms are automatically used as long as the Ligatures or Contextual Alternates OpenType features are turned on (FWIW, they should be on by default in most apps).
Like all Okay Type fonts, Okay has old-style numbers (0123456789) as the default. Proportional-width lining numbers (0123456789) are available as an OpenType feature or by installing the ‘LP’ version of the fonts. Because this is a silly display font there are no tabular-width numbers.
Okay pairs well with both Alright and Harriet. All three typefaces have a similar design sensibility and related structures. This helps them feel like they exist in the same typographic universe and creates a kind of underlying harmony that allows more important differences, like serif/sans or text/display, to shine. Okay+Harriet is an excellent option for the classic sans/serif combination with a satisfying contrast in weight and texture. Paired with Alright, Okay feels almost like a display cut. Like it's almost in the same family, but with a little more personality and visual impact.
Okay Variable Font
Customers who purchase the complete Okay family will also get access to an experimental variable font version of the typeface. Okay VF gives you fine-tuned control over the width and extender length. New to variable fonts? You can start by reading this detailed introduction by John Hudson, or this webfont guide from Microsoft, or you can skip the homework and just start playing around on Nick Sherman’s v-fonts.com.
Thanks for reading. You can buy Okay here.
P.S. Sorry for the confusing name. I started this font in 2004 and spent years trying to think of a different name. When I launched Okay Type in 2009 I still expected to come up with something better. That was dumb of me, there isn't a better name for this font. It's Okay, a self-deprecating anagram of Kayo. I expect to spend the rest of my career dealing with this pointless confusion.