Matthew Carter


Matthew Carter (born 1 October 1937) is a British .
, , 1 September 2003.
A 2005 ' profile described him as 'the most widely read man in the world' by considering the amount of text set in his commonly used fonts. Carter's career began in the early 1960s and has bridged all three major technologies used in type design: , and digital font design, as well as the design of custom lettering. Carter's most used fonts are the classic web fonts and and the interface font , as well as other designs including , and . He is the son of the English historian of printing (1901–1982) and cofounded , one of the first major retailers of . He lives in , Massachusetts.

Early life and education

Carter grew up in London, the son of Harry Carter, a book designer and later historian of printing. His mother worked in preparing scale drawings. Although Carter had intended to get a degree in English at he was advised to take a year off so he would be the same age as his contemporaries who had gone into .



Through his father, Carter arranged to hold an internship at the type foundry in the Netherlands for a year. An extremely long-lasting company with a long history of printing, Enschedé had a history of creating conservative but popular book typefaces. Carter studied manual , the method used to make moulds used to cast , under P. H. Raedisch. Punchcutting was a traditional artisanal approach in decline many years before the 1950s. Carter is one of the last people in Europe formally trained in the technique as a living practice. Carter enjoyed the experience, and decided to move directly into a career in graphic design and printing.

London and New York

Carter's career in type and graphic design has bridged the transition from physical metal type to digital type. Despite Carter's training in the art of traditional punchcutting, his career developed at a time when was rapidly being displaced by . This reduced the cost of designing and using a wide range of typefaces, since type could be stored on reels of film rather than as blocks of expensively engraved metal. In a book on Carter's career, historian , a few years older than Carter, would write of the period of their upbringing:
The classic ontsdominated the typographical landscape ... in Britain, at any rate, they were so ubiquitous that, while their excellent quality was undeniable, it was possible to be bored by them and to begin to rebel against the bland good taste that they represented. In fact we were already aware by 1960 that they might not be around to bore us for too long. The death of metal type ... seemed at last to be happening.'
Carter eventually returned to London where he became a freelancer. By 1961 Carter was able to use the skills he acquired to cut his own version of the semi-bold typeface . An early example of his work is the masthead logo he designed for the British magazine in May 1962, still in use. Previously the lettering had been different for the masthead of each issue; it was based on a font ('a bit of nameless juvenilia') which was never ultimately published. He also did early work for . Carter would later become the typographic advisor to , distributors of Photon machines. Carter designed many typefaces for as well. Under Linotype, Carter created well-known typefaces including , a and , intended for use in the 's phone directories and to celebrate its anniversary. Based on the work of a 16th century French engraver, Carter created the sharp, high-contrast family . This matched a family interest: Carter's father in the 1950s had indexed and examined original type by Granjon at the in Antwerp, and Carter had visited him several times to observe his progress. Carter's adaptation, more intended for display use than for body text, included some eccentricities of Granjon's original design, producing a result unlike many previous revivals of typefaces from the period. Carter wrote of his father's research that it had helped to demonstrate "that the finest collection of printing types made '' y ' in typography's golden age was in perfect condition (some muddle aside) long withPlantin's accounts and inventories which names the cutters of his types." Carter also advised as an independent consultant in the 1980s.


In 1981, Carter and his colleague created This digital type foundry was one of the largest suppliers of type before its acquisition by Monotype in 2012. The company however did receive extensive criticism for its strategy of cheaply offering digitisations of pre-existing typefaces that it had not designed, often under alternative names (for example, as 'Dutch 801'). While technically not illegal, this selling of large numbers of typefaces on CD would be described by font designer John Hudson as "one of the worst instances of piracy in the history of type". In his role at Bitstream, Carter designed typefaces, such as , and commissioned others such as from . Bitstream would ultimately be acquired by Monotype in 2012.

Carter and Cone

Carter left Bitstream in 1991 and in 1992 formed the type foundry with Cherie Cone. Carter's recent typefaces have been published by a range of retailers including , and , often in collaboration with Carter and Cone, together with his custom designs created for companies such as Microsoft. Of Carter's recent fonts, the web font is inspired by designs of the 19th century. It was based on designs for a print typeface in the same style Carter was working on when contacted by Microsoft; this would be released under the name some years later. Speaking in 2013 about the development of Georgia and Miller, Carter said, "I was familiar with Scotch romans, puzzled by the fact that they were once so popular ... and then they disappeared completely." Many of Carter's fonts were created to address specific technical challenges, for example those posed by early computers. was created to use a minimal number of design elements to fit in a small memory space on early computers, a problem that had expired even before he finished the design. The versions of Verdana and Georgia are also unusually bold, almost black. Carter noted that, "Verdana and Georgia ... were all about binary s: every pixel was on or off, black or white ... The bold versions of Verdana and Georgia are bolder than most bolds, because on the screen, at the time we were doing this in the mid-1990s, if the stem wanted to be thicker than one pixel, it could only go to two pixels. That is a bigger jump in weight than is conventional in print series." Some of Carter's early font digitisations would later be revisited: Monotype released an expanded version of Charter and expanded versions of Georgia, Verdana, Big Caslon and others. Earlier in his career, was created to be legible in telephone directories, even when printed on cheap paper at small sizes. Carter's only font to bear his name is . It is a 'glyphic' sans-serif with flaring towards the end of each letter. It was inspired by , a popular British font created by for Monotype. Carter knew Wolpe early in his career and helped digitise one of his less-known fonts for a 1980 retrospective of his work. One of Carter's more unusual projects was a font, Van Lanen, for the . A 'Latin'-style wedge serif font, it was released both in digital form and wood type. In an article on it, Carter noted that it has been "50 years since a type of my design had been in a physical form that I could hold in my hand." Carter has taught on 's graphic design programme since 1976. He also designed the university's corporate fonts, , at the request of John Gambell, the University Printer. Carter has said that this was the first time in designing a typeface that he focused more on capital than lowercase letters, since he knew that on the building signs the lettering would be in capitals. Carter wrote that:
The signs, whether free-standing or attached to walls, reminded me of inscriptions, and this led me to think about the inscriptional origins of Roman caps and the everlasting problem of reconciling capitals with lowercase. For me, the moment when the first true synthesis occurred was in the type of ''De Aetna''. This led me in turn to the to pore over their copy of the book and its type – the archetype of Roman type for me.


Carter has won numerous awards for his contributions to typography and design, including an '','' from the , an AIGA medal in 1995, the TDC Medal from the Type Directors Club in 1997, and the 2005 Typography Award. A retrospective of his work, "Typographically Speaking, The Art of Matthew Carter," was exhibited at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in December 2002. This retrospective is featured in the documentary, "Typographically Speaking: A Conversation With Matthew Carter." In 2010, Carter was named a , otherwise known as a "" grant. On 26 May 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the at the White House. He is a member of (AGI), has served as chairman of , is a member of the board of directors of the Type Directors Club, and is an ''ex officio'' member of the board of directors of the (SOTA). Some of Carter's designs are in the collection of the in London. Carter was appointed (CBE) in the for services to typography and design.


Matthew Carter's typefaces include the following: * Alisal * * * * * *Cascade Script * * (adaptation) * (later republished as Big Figgins) *Fenway * *Gando * * * *Mantinia * (Latin range) * * *Nina *Olympian *Rocky * Roster * Shelley Script * Sitka * Snell Roundhand * *Sophia *Stilson * * Van Lanen * *Vincent *Walker * * Besides Carter's commercially released fonts, many of his designs have been privately commissioned for companies for their own use. These include work for ', the ''New York Times'', ', ', the ', ', and '. Some of these fonts would later be released commercially. An example of this is Roster, which is based on a smaller family created under the name of ''Wrigley'' for ' magazine, and Stilson, originally proprietary to the ' and named 'Postoni'. Seven of Carter's typefaces are in the permanent collection of the . MoMA acquired these in 2011. The typefaces were displayed in the MoMA's exhibition of 2011–12. The seven typefaces are Bell Centennial, Big Caslon, ITC Galliard, Mantinia, Miller, Verdana and Walker.

See also

* *


* , , edited by , Wordsearch Ltd, 1993. * , p. 62.

External links


Type Designer Showcase biography at Monotype Imaging

Designing Modern Britain exhibition biography
* *
TED Talk: Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces (TED2014)

Mathew Carter in conversation with Erik Spiekermann, Eye No. 11

Graphic Content: Carter Sans
by Steven Heller, New York Times, 2 February 2011
Matthew Carter
– collection of material by

('s website)
Carter & Cone
{{DEFAULTSORT:Carter, Matthew Commanders of the Order of the British Empire