Matthew Carter a 2010 MacArthur Fellow

Here’s a guy you have likely been reading for years and didn’t even know it. Read about Matthew Carter’s becoming a $500,000 MacArthur Fellow here. Carter has been designing typefaces for something like 50 years, and he worked as a punchcutter when first starting out, and later kept right up with technology by designing faces digitally.

You know that tiny type they use in the phone book? Take a look. It would look kind of funky if you used it as a regular face or big for display type because it was designed for a different purpose. The ink on the presses would fill in the counters of the letters (the spaces inside letters like the lowercase “e”), especially on absorbent paper like they use for phone books. Carter created extra pointy spaces in the counters to allow the ink to spread and still be readable.

And you know Microsoft’s Verdana and Georgia? Yep. Carter’s. Designed to be legible, even at small sizes on computer screens. He also designed Tahoma.

Carter was featured in the full-length film Helvetica where he explained the theory behind his job. He wants you to read and not take any notice the font carrying the message. If you do that, then he believes he’s done his job well. So you’ve probably read his work your entire life, but never even noticed.