[Scribus] typography: Matthew Carter
Fri Dec 2 03:19:47 CET 2005
There is an article about Matthew Carter and typography in the most
recent issue of The New Yorker (5 Dec 2005). He is said to be the most
significant type designer in America. He is British, and lives in
Some of his work includes the type for the ATT phone book and for many
magazines and newspapers (he's currently working on a new typeface for
Le Monde). He also designed Verdana for Microsoft. He originally
learned typography by carving type out of steel in the Netherlands in
"With a needle, a type cutter scratched the outline of a letter on the
end of a then shaft of steel called a punch. Then he began scraping
steel away from the borders of the letter. 'It's a subtracting exercise.
You remove the steel, and the letter is what's left.'"
"Twenty years ago, Carter began drawing letters on a computer. He
prefers to start with the lowercase 'h' and 'o'. He proceeds carefully,
because any misjudgment multiplies its effect as he continues. He does
'p' and 'd' next, because they include elements of the 'h' and 'o' and
are also inversions of each other. 'If something looks awful with your
'p' and 'd' ', he says, 'you know something's wrong with your 'h' and
'o', and you revise them.' Next he might draw a 'v', because it involves
new considerations. 'You get half a dozen letters, and you work on them
again and again until you feel confident,' he says. When he has
collected enough letters to feel that his decisions are sound, he begins
printing proofs of them in combinations -- 'ab', 'ac', 'ad', and so on."
" 'The heavy lifting begins when the alphabet is finished,' Carter says.
'I begin then to see how the letters go together to make words, how they
line up next to each other, how they sit on the page or the screen, how
they work with the punctuation and the symbols. I print up forty or so
pages, and when I first see them I feel suicidal. Nothing is working. If
it isn't working, I don't necessarily know why it isn't. It simply looks
bad. Then starts the long process of going back and making changes here
and there. You change something one day, and the next day you change it
back, because you realize it wasn't the problem. Nothing gets better,
you despair, until one day you're looking -- you've changed something
small -- and you're looking at a typeface.' "
"Microsoft wanted its new typeface to be as legible as possible. Carter
was aware as he worked that the point might soon be reached where more
text was read on computer screens than was read on paper, and that the
purpose in designing this face was not simply that it print handsomely
but that it also looks good on the screen.
"On a computer screen, Carter would display writing set in his design,
and, on another screen beside it, he'd display the same words set in
Microsoft's face MS Sans. Then he would back up slowly until he could no
longer read one or the other. 'It's a crude way of doing it,' he says,
'but it works. If you degrade it, you learn.' "
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