This entry is the second in a series of short articles explaining exactly what all those mysterious abbreviations you come across in your typographic lives actually mean. In this installation, the abbreviation we’ll examine is VAG (as in VAG Rounded).
VAG Rounded is a typeface that was originally developed by Sedley Place in 1979 as part of the corporate branding for Volkswagen. The “VAG” stands for “Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft” (which is German for “Volkswagen Incorporated”). In 1989, the font was published for public use by Adobe. Its designers were David Bristow, Gerry Barney, Ian Hay, Kit Cooper, and Terence Griffin.
VAG Rounded is one of many fonts which come bundled with several of Adobe‘s industry-standard design programs, such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Because of the huge popularity of Adobe software (and subsequent proliferation of VAG Rounded), many designers have VAG Rounded loaded on their computers whether they know it or not. It is not surprising then, especially when considering VAG Rounded’s clean, simple, and friendly design, that it has become a very commonly used font.
While the type experts at Adobe identify VAG Rounded as “a variation on nineteenth-century grotesque sans serif designs”, its most obvious distinguishing factor is the use of rounded terminals. This design element gives it a uniquely soft and friendly feeling, making it popular as a choice for many modern logo designs and marketing campaigns (for more on this topic, see this entry on the FontShop blog by Stephen Coles).
In fact, the clean and friendly appearance of VAG Rounded earned it the choice for use on the keyboards of all Apple iBooks and 2003-and-later PowerBooks, further exposing the font to designers around the world.
Another indirect testament to the success of VAG Rounded when used in the context of corporate marketing is GE Inspira, an adaptation of VAG Rounded developed by Michael Abbink around 2002 as part of a visual identity system for General Electric. Some comparisons between the two fonts are made in the following image (from Wikipedia):
I still haven’t figured out how to pronounce VAG Rounded in my normal conversation. My immediate instinct is to make a word from the VAG initials and refer to it as something that would sound like “Vadge Rounded” or simply “Vadge”. But for obvious awkwardness-avoiding reasons I think I’ll just take the time to pronounce each letter: “Vee Ay Gee Rounded”.