Cooper Misunderstood

by Staff
The Cooper typeface is quite often misunderstood by graphic designers and relegated to the genre of Dom Casual, Hobo or Blippo as a junk display face, not to be used. But the true font lover knows that's not true. Most likely they're thinking about Cooper Black, which is a bit rude, and always difficult to work with.

Cooper was designed by Oswald Cooper

Cooper typeface sample In reality the other members of the original Cooper family comprise a wonderfully beautiful old-style font that graces the pages for those who dare to use it. Cooper was designed by Oswald Cooper for Bernhart Brothers & Spindler in the 1920s.

Oswald Bruce Cooper studied at Chicago's Frank Holme School of Illustration*, first as a correspondence student, then in person, with an interest in illustration. Feeling that this was not his forte, he pursued design, and after taking a lettering class from Frederic Goudy*, pursued a career in type and design. In time he became Director of the Correspondence School of Typography for the Holme School. When the school closed due to financial difficulties, Cooper took it on himself to provide correspondence education to prepaid students. (According to Wikipedia)

Cooper's old style appeal

Cooper's old style appeal works with content that is intended to be warm and friendly. I would not use it for technology or hard, mechanical style content but it's most appropriate for organic information -- anything from healthcare to children's books.

Real style in story telling, Cooper has a lyrical feeling

I've seen it used in some beautiful applications like upper-crust restaurants, wineries, and even in romantic books and book covers. The passage above is set in URW Cooper Old Style Light.

For some super newspaper ad work, or in flyers, handbills and signage where you really have to punch out there, use Cooper Black. Put a 5% to 15% squeeze on and it becomes very modern looking while still maintaining a fairly good character count. While it may be a bit 'old fashioned' looking, and many designers will frown, Cooper Black has a black bite that pokes right off the page and into your reader's eye!

Cooper Font Family including Cooper Old Style, Cooper Black, Cooper Italic

Packard ads Amazingly enough, Cooper's anonymous hand-lettering for Packard ads* formed the basis of the Packard font prepared at the direction of Morris Fuller Benton* of American Type Founders. (There's a freeware font called Packard Antique, but we don't think it looks like the real font. You can see for yourself, download it here.)

We previously told you about Keith Tam's web site and outstanding collection of essays and samples -- here's one on the Cooper Family that is not to be missed. In this presentation, Tam writes:

"He [Cooper] has taken the classic letter forms and made them his own by the vigor of his personality. He makes them express whatever he wills - elegance, austerity, whimsical drollery, the still small whisper or lusty shout. He understands the anatomy of letters - their 'bones' as he calls them. No matter how free he may draw them, they always have structure and form in contrast to the usual spineless stuff that is termed 'hand' lettering."

While visiting Keith Tam's Gallery, be sure you don't miss his beautiful Presentation on Cooper

The Real Thing

Don't be fooled by the Cooper that came on your computer. Or any of the misnamed, misfits you can download from the freebie sites. Get the real thing. Because it's so misunderstood by new designers and poo-poo'd by the snob design class, the Monotype Corporation offers the URW Cooper Old Style Volume for just $79.00USD! (Mac and Windows in OpenType - PostScript Flavor.) These days, you just can't get an entire .otf family for under a hundred bucks!

Thanks for reading...

Fred Showker

Don't forget ... we encourage you to share your opinions, observations, rants, raves, and praise. Just comment below, contact me here, or give me a tweet at Twitter/DTG_Magazine


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On October 7th, Anonymous said:

You're absolutely right: The Cooper series is inspiring. And what an interesting italic. Thanks for writing about it!

The Packard series was a completely different design. According to historical sources, it was not only Mr. Cooper's first commercial success in 1913, but was also patented for its novelty.

The version of Packard that you link to really does not do the design justice, nor honor Mr. Cooper's professionalism. Beware that cap R, especially. A good example, though, of how autotracing fonts produces inferior quality. Readers here owe it to themselves to seek out crisp historical specimens to really appreciate how very clever Cooper was.

Cooper apparently did not release Cooper Old Style and varieties of it until 1919-24, and Cooper Black until 1920-26.

Joe Treacy
Director of Typography

On November 24th, Pablo Impallari said:

Great Article:
Allow me to suggest you also to check out the Bitstream version of Cooper.
It includes beautiful 'fi' and 'fl' ligatures, specially on the italics.
Don't miss it!!!

And check out the 'Oz' familly by Patrick Giasson at Village two. It's very nice, and it's inspired by Cooper style.

On September 21st, Business Logo Design said:

Wow its really a informative article post. keep it up.

i like to share it with my friends on facebook.

thanks again for a informative share post.

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