Typographically Speaking at Des Lee Oct. 10-Nov. 29

Exhibition examines work of Matthew Carter, among the 20th century's preeminent type designers

Matthew Carter is among the preeminent type designers of the 20th century, an artist whose work has helped shape the familiar graphic looks of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated magazines as well as The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post.

An alternate ITC Galliard (1978) italic letter
An alternate ITC Galliard (1978) italic letter “g” drawn for Cherie Cone.

Next month, the Washington University School of Art will present Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter at its Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Ave. The exhibition includes dozens of drawings, sketches and printed examples — drawn largely from Carter’s own archives — documenting the creation of Bell Centennial (1978), the standard for telephone directories; ITC Galliard (also 1978), ranked by design critics as one of the 20th century’s most significant design accomplishments; and Microsoft’s Verdana (1994) and Georgia (1996) families, among many others.

Typographically Speaking will open with a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, and will remain on view through Nov. 29. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays and by appointment.

In addition, Carter will participate in a panel discussion on intellectual property rights and typography at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, in the university’s School of Law, located on Olympian Way just north of Forsyth Boulevard. Later that evening, he will lecture on “Truth to Materials in Type: Printer Fonts and Screen Fonts” at 7:30 p.m. in Steinberg Auditorium, located in the Washington University Gallery of Art, Steinberg Hall, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (314) 621-8735.

Matthew Carter

Carter’s 40-year career spans a technological revolution in type design, from the days of hot metal foundries and linotype assemblers to the introduction of commercial phototype in the 1960s and the modern era of desktop publishing.

A drawing comparing Carter's National Geographic Caption (1979) to the magazine's previously used Roman and Italic typefaces.  The overall weight and proportions are about the same, but the new design slants less than Italic and is as wide as Roman.
A drawing comparing Carter’s National Geographic Caption (1979) to the magazine’s previously used Roman and Italic typefaces. The overall weight and proportions are about the same, but the new design slants less than Italic and is as wide as Roman.

Born in 1937, Carter is the son of renowned designer Harry Carter and originally trained as a punchcutter at the Ensche type foundry in the Netherlands with the legendary Paul H. Rädisch, one of the craft’s true masters. (Punchcutting involves transferring letterforms onto the ends of short steel bars that are then used to create the brass molds for casting lead type.) By the early 1960s, however, Carter was heading the typographic program at Crosfield Electronics, the British manufacturing agent for the Lumitype phototypesetting machine. From 1965-81, he served as house designer for Mergenthaler Linotype, Brooklyn, the company that had invented linotype nearly 100 years before and, during Carter’s tenure, Linofilm.

In 1981, Carter and fellow designer Mike Parker founded Bitstream, the first digital font foundry, in Cambridge, Mass. Bitstream quickly became a giant in the industry, leading Carter — who wished to focus more specifically on design issues — to launch a second shop in 1991 with designer Cherie Cone. In the years since, Carter & Cone has produced specially commissioned types for Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, U.S. News & World Report, the Walker Art Center and Wired, among others. Most recently, Carter’s fonts were used in the redesign of BusinessWeek magazine.

Snell Roundhand (1966) takes advantage of the ability of photocomposing machines to set letters at a deep slant and with generous overlaps.  The letter
Snell Roundhand (1966) takes advantage of the ability of photocomposing machines to set letters at a deep slant and with generous overlaps. The letter “f” shown here crosses into the areas of four neighboring letters.

Many of Carter’s letterforms have been crafted to solve particular problems or meet specific technological needs. For example, Bell Centennial, commissioned by AT&T, is clean sans serif design characterized primarily by vertical and horizontal strokes with short curves and distinctive open “notches” at points of intersection. These notches compensate for ink spread on rough directory paper and allow the font to remain legible at a small, six-point size. Similarly, the sans serif Verdana and serif Georgia were designed to accommodate the pixilation of onscreen display, remaining legible even at small sizes and low resolutions.

In all, Carter has designed more than two-dozen typefaces or families thereof, including Auriga (1965), Bitstream Charter (1987), Elephant (1992), Helvetica Compressed (1966), Mantinia (1993), Miller News (1997 & 1999), National Geographic Caption (1979), Olympian (1970) and Snell Roundhand (1966).

Carter is a Royal Designer for Industry; a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale; chairman of the type designers’ committee of AtypI (Association Typographique Internationale); and a senior critic at Yale University. His many honors include the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, the Frederic W. Goudy Award for outstanding contribution to the printing industry, the Type Directors Club Medal and the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Medal.


Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter was organized by the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and curated by Margaret Re, assistant professor of visual arts. The exhibition and accompanying publication are made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support provided by the Maryland State Arts Council; Baltimore County Commission on Arts & Sciences; Carter & Cone Inc.; and private contributors.

In St. Louis, the exhibition is sponsored by Washington University’s School of Art, School of Law, John M. Olin School of Business, Olin Library Special Collections, Department of Art History & Archaeology and Program in American Culture Studies (the latter two in Arts & Sciences), as well as the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Art & Art History Department and AIGA student chapter. Additional local support is provided by Bliss Collaborative; Checkmark Communications; Design Lab Inc., Doug McKay; emdash; McCord Design; Plum Studio; ProWolfe Partners and TOKY Branding Design.