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Design Forefathers: Matthew Carter

Recently updated on February 10th, 2021 at 05:55 pm

Another installment in our continuing series on designers who have made a lasting impression on the graphic design industry.

It takes all types…

Matthew Carter, Designer, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 12th Annual Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given in recognition of a distinguished individual who has made a profound and long-term contribution to the contemporary practice of design.

Matthew Carter (born in London in 1937) is a type designer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His career in type design has spanned the transition from “hot” lead type to “cold” digital type.

At the age of 19, Carter spent a year in The Netherlands where he learned the art of punch cutting at the Enschedé type foundry. By 1961 Carter was able to use his skills to cut his own version of the semi-bold typeface Dante.

Carter returned to London where he became the typographic advisor to Crosfield Electronics, distributors of Photon phototypesetting machines. Carter also designed many typefaces for Mergenthaler Linotype. Working with Linotype, Carter created well known typefaces such as the 100-year replacement typeface for Bell Telephone Company, aptly named Bell Centennial.

In 1981, Carter and a colleague Mike Parker created Bitstream Inc. This digital type foundry is one of the largest suppliers of type. He left Bitstream in 1991 to form the Carter & Cone type foundry with Cherie Cone.

Matthew Carter designs for Apple and Microsoft computers. Georgia and Verdana are two fonts created for viewing on computer monitors. He has designed type for publications such as Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Wired, and Newsweek.

In 2007, Carter designed a new variant of the typeface Georgia for use in the graphical user interface of the Bloomberg Terminal. In 2010, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, otherwise known as a “genius” grant.

In his half-century career, Matthew Carter designed some of the most recognizable typefaces ever used. Here is a partial list:

Bell Centennial
Big Caslon
Bitstream Charter
Big Figgins
Carter Sans (2011)
Cascade Script
ITC Galliard
Meiryo (Latin range)
Shelley Script
Snell Roundhand
Wilson Greek
Yale University typeface


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