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Matthew Carter

The creator of the early Web fonts Verdana and Georgia, Matthew Carter is a type designer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has worked at Linotype and Bitstream, and since 1991 has been a principal of the firm Carter & Cone Type. His most recent designs are Carter Sans for Monotype Imaging, and Sitka for Microsoft.

  1. CYRUS HIGHSMITH, INSIDE PARAGRAPHS: TYPOGRAPHIC FUNDAMENTALS (FONT BUREAU, 2012)

    Cyrus Highsmith is a type designer at the Font Bureau who also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. This book is the one he wishes he’d had when he was a student himself: a visual guide to what goes on inside a paragraph of text. Unlike most typography books, which focus on letters, Highsmith focuses on negative space—inside letters, between letters, between words, between lines—with the goal of helping students to see text as typographers do.

    *Cover detail of Cyrus Highsmith’s _Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals_* (Font Bureau, 2012). Cover detail of Cyrus Highsmith’s Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals (Font Bureau, 2012).
  2. THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

    The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston I like to take photographs in museums. So I’m grateful to museums (and libraries and galleries) that permit this, and resentful of those that don’t. (They tend to blame their insurance companies.) My local art museum, the MFA Boston, is good in this regard; only the occasional loan exhibition is camera shy. Other museums I frequent are similarly enlightened. My thanks to them all. And no, I don’t use my iPhone to take surreptitious snaps when photography is forbidden, grumpy though I may be.

  3. THE HAMILTON WOOD TYPE & PRINTING MUSEUM IN TWO RIVERS, WISCONSIN

    In the days of letterpress printing, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company was the largest US producer of wood type. Now, at a time of revived interest in letterpress, it has transformed into a working museum with a fantastic collection of wood type (1.5 million pieces!) and the machinery used to manufacture and print it. There are workshops and an annual Wayzgoose festival (which sells out—book early). The Kartemquin Films documentary Typeface (2009) is a good introduction to Hamilton, but note that director Justine Nagan shot most of the film before the Moran brothers, Jim and Bill, began running the museum, greatly reinvigorating it.

    *Typeface template hand cut with a scroll saw, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, 2011.* Photo: Nick Sherman/Flickr. Typeface template hand cut with a scroll saw, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, 2011. Photo: Nick Sherman/Flickr.
  4. MICHAEL RUSSEM, POSTAGE STAMPS BY AIGA MEDALISTS (KAT RAN PRESS, 2013)

    This book illustrates many fine designs from the past, going back to W. A. Dwiggins’s hypothetical stamps, part of the American designer’s 1932 proposal to reform the nation’s paper currency, and includes stamps by Herbert Bayer, Saul Bass, Bradbury Thompson, Alvin Eisenman, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, and other recipients of the American Institute of Graphic Arts medal. The book itself is well designed and produced, worthy of its contents. I especially like Chris Pullman’s quilt stamps from 1978.

    *Chris Pullman’s 1978 “Folk Art USA: Quilts” United States stamps.* Chris Pullman’s 1978 “Folk Art USA: Quilts” United States stamps.
  5. POPVLVS

    The inscriptional capitals of imperial Rome, at their most imperious in the first and second centuries AD, were the ultimate source of the earliest roman capitals, made in Venice toward the end of the fifteenth century. The task of marrying these stately stone-carved forms to a lowercase alphabet from a separate pen-written tradition, not to mention to a set of numerals from yet another culture altogether, confronts type designers today as unavoidably as it did in the 1470s. Sumner Stone went back to inscriptional models for his Popvlvs capitals and grappled, as did his forerunners, with designing a lowercase that integrates harmoniously. Stone’s elegantly resolved typeface is used for this entry and can be seen in full at stonetypefoundry.com.

  6. BILL THOMPSON, GYRO (ORANGE, GREEN, PURPLE), 2009

    Bill Thompson, who is best known for his sculptural paintings, had an exhibition of prints at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design last year that included this mesmerizing triptych of aquatints. The platemaking and printing were a collaboration between Thompson and James Stroud, who describes the process on his web- site, centerstreetstudio.com, using the term chromatic intensity to characterize the rich saturation of color that GYRO took on due to the properties of this reproduction technique. Thompson has said that printmaking allows him to do things that are impossible in his three-dimensional work, but in the gradated glow of these flat images, one senses a third dimension just below the surface.

  7. SHINNYO LANTERN FLOATING FOR PEACE (NEW YORK, NY)

    Last September, the day before the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York, the Shinnyo-en Buddhist community held this event at Central Park’s Wollman Rink. It was a beautiful and moving ceremony. After nightfall, 2,200 candlelit lanterns, designed by Ayse Birsel, were launched on the water, most bearing messages written by the participants. There were dancers, musicians, and, among the representatives of several religions, the Shinnyo clergy in their colorful robes. I was happy to find that the Buddhist journal Tricycle recorded the event as a musical portrait, making it accessible on tricycle.com.

  8. BUTTERICK’S PRACTICAL TYPOGRAPHY (2013)

    Matthew Butterick is a typographer, lawyer, and author of a book titled, not surprisingly, Typography for Lawyers (Jones McClure, 2010). Much of the advice he gives legal professionals about the design of their documents applies equally well to typographic practice in general. He has put this content into Butterick’s Practical Typography, a self-published online book that boldly begins: “If you learn and follow these five typography rules, you will be a better typographer than 95% of professional writers and 70% of professional designers.” Rule number five: “Never choose Times New Roman or Arial, as these fonts are favored only by the apathetic and sloppy. Not by typographers. Not by you.” Yeah!

  9. “THE DEAN OF AMERICAN PRINTERS: THEODORE LOW DE VINNE AND THE ART PRESERVATIVE OF ALL ARTS” (GROLIER CLUB, NEW YORK)

    Curated by Michael Koenig and Irene Tichenor, with a catalogue by Jerry Kelly, this exhibition (opening February 19) commemorates the hundredth anniversary of De Vinne’s death. De Vinne was a great scholar-printer (not a term one hears any longer) equally eminent as the proprietor of an important press and as an influential writer on the history and practice of his trade. He was also instrumental in the production of the typeface Century, one of the glories of American typefounding and still a staple today. The De Vinne Press building survives on Lafayette Street in New York. I genuflect every time I pass it.

  10. LETTERING HERE AND THERE

    One peril of a typographer’s déformation professionnelle is being too acutely aware of the bombardment of public lettering. But there are occasional consolations: a sturdy signwriter’s Gothic, weathered to a ghost on a building in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon; cast-iron street signs marking the avenues and paths of Mount Auburn Cemetery, opened in 1831 on the borders of Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts; and Jan van Krimpen’s capitals on the Dutch World War II memorial in the center of Amsterdam, erected in 1956. I have some reservations about Van Krimpen’s typefaces, but his monumental capitals are superb.

    *Sign in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, 2013.* Photo: Matthew Carter. Sign in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, 2013. Photo: Matthew Carter.