A Font of Wisdom

Every year, The MacArthur Fellowship – otherwise known as “The Genius Award” – offers  $500,000 grants to American citizens demonstrating exceptional creative work. Last October, font designer Matthew Carter was bestowed this coveted prize, giving typography newfound distinction in the artistic community.

After studying punch cutting at a type foundry in the Netherlands, Carter went on to design a version of the Dante typeface. He later moved to London, where he created a typeface to mark Bell Telephone Company’s one hundred year anniversary. With the advent of the Bell Centennial typeface, phone directories become increasingly legible, easier to print, and cheaper to manufacture. Carter was becoming one of the most foremost typography designers in modern history.

Riding on his triumph with Bell Telephone, Carter created Bitstream Inc., a type foundary producing digital type fonts. In 1991, Microsoft commissioned Carter to design fonts that would be easy to read on a computer screen. Two years later, he launched three fonts that would become industry standards: Verdana, Georgia and Tahoma. Never content to rest on his laurels, the typesetter went on to create fonts for The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Newsweek.

Flash forward 20 years, and Carter became the first font designer ever to receive The MacArthur Prize. At 72 years old, he was also the oldest recipient. He joins an impressive league of artists, writers, and scholars whose work promises to change the landscape of creative thought.

Given this newfound prestige for font design, is it any wonder that font management systems will play pivotal role in creating world-class websites? Hopefully, future designers will stand on the shoulders of Matthew Carter, creating even higher and higher standards for this rapidly evolving art form.

– Stephanie Dempsey, FontGear

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