Hey, this is me on a stroll a few days ago.
During this walk I noticed something,
so I started taking pictures of it.
Eventually I got my co-workers to join in.
Mac took this picture, and Agnes took this one.
What we all noticed was this font.
If you’ve somehow managed to never see it on a storefront,
you’ve definitely seen it elsewhere.
Because it’s everywhere.
Strip away the candy wrappers,
movie posters, album covers, and corner store signs,
and you’re left with this typeface.
It’s called Cooper Black,
and the story of how it became so popular
has everything to do with its versatility,
because these letters have been around for a century’s worth of changes
in technology and pop culture.
To set the stage for the story, I talked to Stephen Heller.
Bear with me while I move to another part of the apartment.
Among other things, he’s written like a library’s worth of books about design.
Okay, I’m back.
And this is Bethany Heck.
I am a designer who writes about typefaces.
She runs the Font Review Journal
她运营Font Review Journal网站
where she deconstructs the history and design of notable typefaces
like Cooper Black.
If you give me like two minutes
I can run and find an actual like physical piece of wood type
and I can talk through some of this.
While she’s doing that,
let’s travel back in time a hundred years to the city of Chicago
where our story begins.
It’s 1919 right after World War 1.
Advertising was reaching an early zenith at that point
because with the end of the war
there was a great resurgence of product and demand.
The two dominating materials for commercial printing were wood and metal.
Wood was cut out of the end pieces of hard wood,
they were usually large size typefaces
that were used for large-scale advertising and posters.
The bold typefaces you see in old wanted posters，
those were made from wood type.
Metal was the process that was created by Gutenberg
when he designed the type for his Bible.
Each individual character was physically formed into words,
and those words were cast into tiny lines of text.
Those molds allowed for smaller more precise blocks of type.
That’s the kind of type that was used for most commercial purposes,
from book publishing to magazine publishing.
By the turn of the 20th century, huge Rube Goldberg-like machines
called linotypes drastically sped up this process.
This is the world Oswald Cooper,
Chicago’s preeminent letterer and illustrator lived in.
In 1918, after years of making custom hand lettered ads
for car companies and banks,
he designed a fully-formed typeface dubbed Cooper.
It took a classic Roman form and softened to the edges.
Seeing promise in Cooper’s design and the prior success of his lettering work,
the type foundry Barnhart Brothers&Spindler
asked him to make a bold display typeface based on the font.
Around 1920, Oswald Cooper released Cooper Black,
约1920年 Oswald Cooper发布Cooper Black字体
and it was an immediate hit.
It was used for newspaper headlines and large-scale posters.
It sold cars, cold medicine, music lessons, turntables, and ginger ale.
它被用于汽车销售 感冒药 音乐课 转盘和姜汁饮料
With Cooper Black, it was like somebody
took an air pump to a tire and blew up that tire.
I mean this ad for Cooper Black credits the font for
getting five thousand customers into their client’s new store on opening day.
客户使用了Cooper Black字体 在开业当天吸引了5000名顾客
And in countless reviews, it was considered the most popular typeface design of the time.
So what made it work so well?
For one, its curves.
Perhaps the most unconventional aspect of the curves are
that willingness to be unafraid to curve the bottom parts of the letter forms.
So if you look at the bottom parts of the stems of the “A”
like there’s no flat edges on that, which is very strange.
If you look at most typefaces, they have flat bottom somewhere.
Even Cooper Black’s imitations like Goudy Heavy and Pabst Extra Bold
甚至Cooper Black的模仿者 Goudy Heavy和Pabst Extra Bold这两种字体
failed to fully break tradition.
You want that consistent line for legibility,
and so the fact that Cooper doesn’t have that means
that it’s very forgiving to irregularities.
Like the baseline serif of one character naturally
flows right into the curve of another
even when the characters are slightly uneven.
Those irregularities look more like mistakes than quirks
in straighter edged designs.
The fact that Cooper doesn’t necessarily need to be laid in a straight line to look good is
an advantage. Let’s talk about this weird F.
It’s an identifiable feature of Cooper Black.
Turns out it’s pretty genius.
Draw a rectangle around that F,
and you have to think like “okay I’ve got a draw of really bold F
你会想 “好吧 我得画一个非常粗的’F’
and I only have this rectangle of space to play with.”
You’ve got the crossbars, and then you’ve got the hook at the top,
and the serif at the bottom,
you’re kind of like running out of space.
The shape of this negative space in the ascender
allowed Cooper to make the F as bold as possible for as much as possible
while still maintaining legibility,
which wasn’t always the case for heavy typefaces of the time.
This is actually a good example, like this is a very bold
four, and you can see that like the counter space in there is like really tiny.
The tininess is what makes the four look bold and heavy,
but that four could get sort of like filled up with ink and then essentially vanish. These
negative spaces within each character made Cooper Black incredibly light and friendly
while still commanding attention.
The fact that it worked both big and small was a huge selling point.
Every character of Cooper Black has its own little quirks.
The G is always the thing that I think about first,
it has like this sort of anthropomorphic quality.
I think it looks like a duck.
Now that you say that, the Q kind of looks like a snail. Weird.
这么说的话 字母“Q”像一只蜗牛 好奇特
At any rate, I think the letter that shows just how fun and functional Cooper Black can be
无论如何 我觉得能展现Cooper Black趣味性和实用性的字母
has to be the O. A lot of typefaces have a vertical stress,
so the oval inside would just point straight up and down.
Cooper’s tilts back, and while it looks off-kilter on its own,
when placed in a word or phrase,
it always seems to compliment the letters around it.
The central conflict that a type designer is facing is
how do I make something that feels cohesive as a whole design system
as opposed to a beautiful collection of letters.
Somehow Cooper achieved both.
Oswald Cooper believed Cooper Black was at its best
Oswald Cooper认为Cooper Black字体最好的呈现方式是
when there was thin spacing between the words
and not much leading between the lines.
Basically it worked best when the letters were all cramped together.
But that sometimes posed a problem.
Even when Cooper Black was first designed,
like just the act of squishing type together tight was like
in some cases extremely difficult or impossible to do.
In the 1950s, two dramatically new ways of printing
made it easier to push letters closer together,
and that thrust Cooper Black into the second half of the 20th century.
There was a basic change in the material of which type is made,
a change from lead to paper or film.
The first was photo type hot metal typecasting
was replaced by film strips in dark rooms.
And by the early 1960s machines like the phototypositor
were small enough to fit in local print shops.
The other was the invention of dry rub transfers
which just required a ballpoint pen and a piece of paper.
It was perfect for customizing headlines.
Letraset, the company that made them marketed it
as fast, simple and economical.
These two technologies opened up graphic design to more adventurous compositions,
something wood and metal had struggled to do.
And cooper black flourished.
It thrived as always in advertising.
It’s friendly curves fit thetongue-in-cheek aesthetic of the 1960s and 70s.
But it also showed up in magazines,
movies and hundreds of album covers.
Pet Sounds was like the quintessential setting.
Just look at the way the D works with the E and the Y in the
我们看“D”和 “E” 的搭配
“boys” fits so nicely over the O,
it’s fluidity is what makes it special
and it’s boldness makes it special.
I think all type designers would come in and say like they have an idea
of how a typeface is meant to be used,
but I think that a typeface doesn’t really reach its full potential
until it’s put into somebody else’s hands.
Because Cooper black was readily available in letraset in typepositor catalogs,
it was no longer just in the hands of professionals and designers.
It was in the hands of the DIYers of the counterculture movement.
It seamlessly jumped from Burger King to
underground posters and magazines and became a staple.
The idea of using something that’s basic vernacular
but using it with intention to make a statement is
something that you see throughout design or cultural history.
These early hip-hop posters are actually the perfect example of Cooper blacks’
adaptability and its legacy. Like take a look at this one. It doesn’t really
matter that these are two lowercase Ls because the S fits so perfectly next to them
and the types’ ability to be squeezed as tightly as possible and
still be incredibly legible holds up even under extreme circumstances
It’s always fun to look at something that’s used an assertive lowbrow way and then
to realize that this isn’t like some cheap tacky thing.
This is actually like very good. That’s why Cooper Black is just as
它实际上非常好 正因为这样 Cooper Black在今天仍然很受欢迎
popular today as it was when it was first made from corner store signs and
fashion brands to food packaging, grassroots movements and hip-hop album covers.
Cooper’s ability to work as like rebel
in letterings and in photo type and as movable type and also now like in digital.
照片排版 活字排版 以及现在的数字排版
That’s why it’s everywhere,
and that’s something that Oswald Cooper couldn’t have predicted.
Hey, this is me on a stroll a few days ago.