Courier is a monospaced slab-serif typeface that was designed in 1955 by
The sheer number of sold IBM typewriters and the fact, that IBM did not secure legal exclusivity for Courier, led to the adaption and excessive use throughout the typewriter industry, thus paving the way for the typeface's success in the following decades. Acordingly Courier became the de facto standard font for correspondence, reports and almost all business and office communication.
While Courier was called Messenger in its prototype phase, Kettler decided to change the name shortly before its release, stating “A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige and stability.”
After Courier was used for the
Courier was later adapted for Adobe's Type 1 font technology used in PostScript (→), which was first used by the
In 1992, Courier was then adapted for the TrueType (→) format (an outline font standard developed by Apple and Microsoft in the late 1980s as a competitor to Adobe's Type 1 fonts used in PostScript) and released under the Name "Courier New" with Windows 3.1x, furthering the propagation and success of the typeface.
Courier has since been adapted and released under many different names and numerous different forms. While slightly differing from each other, their respective skeleton still resembles the very first Courier by Howard G. Kettler.
Howard G. Kettler
Howard G. Kettler was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1919. He first came into touch with typography and design by being a cartoonist for The Crimson & Gold school newspaper when he was enrolled in New Bremen High School.
After serving in the US Navy during World War II, Kettler worked as a postal clerk at the New Bremen Post Office before taking over the management of The Home Printing Company, publishers of The New Bremen Sun (→) on January 1st, 1948.
On July 15th, 1948 the name of the business was changed to "The Sun Printing Co" and on September 15, 1949, Kettler was listed as editor of the paper.
1950, Kettler started building a new concrete block building, where he conducted the printing business from September 21, 1950, which led him to become familiar with operating
On October 1, 1952, Kettler sold the business to L.T. Stanley of Cincinnati and accepted a position as type designer with IBM in Poughskeepsie, New York (→).
Kettler was eventually given the responsibility for training by IBM, which led him to produce a type-design tutorial book and organize lectures at the University of Kentucky, on the history of text imaging and calligraphy by the world's leading type designers, including
While being known for creating Courier in 1955, Kettler's career at IBM encompasses a number of other typefaces such as
When asked what he was going to do after retirement, Kettler replied, "The first thing I have planned is to design my own headstone in a new typestyle." When asked what it would say, he replied, "You'll have to come visit me to find out!"
Courier is a monospaced font, also called a fixed-pitch, fixed-width or non-proportional font. This describes a font whose letters and characters each occupy the
Monospacing was initially a mechanical necessity for typewriters, that allowed the typewriter engineers a predictable unit of measure to advance the strike. When a key is pressed, a letter strikes the paper and the carriage moves along a fixed distance.
In the early days of Courier, the distinguishing feature of a typewriter font was not its typeface, but its pitch, which is the number of characters per inch.
Pitch is a descriptor that can only be applied to monospaced fonts, not to proportional fonts, due to there nature of occupying the same amount of horizontal space.
Courier was available in
Form and Shape
When Kettler started working on Courier he decided to construct a slab-serif typeface, which is characterized by
Courier's serifs and stems are evenly weighted, sorting the typeface into the neo-grotesque model of slab-serifs. Other models are the Clarendon Model which feature bracketing and some contrast in size in the actual serif and the Italienne Model, featuring serifs that are even heavier than the stems.
Courier features a
In the design process Kettler would often generate original sized mock ups and turn them around a full 180 degrees to make sure that not a single character stood out. This may be the reason for Couriers lack of extravagant letterforms. However, there are a few characteristc letterforms in Courier such as the lowercase
Due to the rich history of Courier in the pre-digital era, there are countless digital versions today. While the general character of the original Courier version is preserved in each digital version, they still differ from each other. The most prominent features by which they can be distinguished are the stroke ends (round or straight) and the weight of the typeface. There are of course some other minor differences in the letterforms, that help distinguish the different versions.
Below you can find an overview of the main digital versions of Courier that exist today:
Courier by Adobe (→)
Courier by Linotype (→)
Courier by Monotype (→)
Courier 10 Pitch by Bitstream Inc. (→)
Courier New by Microsoft (→)
Courier included with Final Draft (→)
Courier included with Fade in Pro (→)
Dark Courier by Hewlett Packard (→)
Nimbus Mono L by URW++ (→)
Courier Prime by Quote-Unquote Apps (→)
While Courier is one of the most known and used typefaces around the world, there is almost no need for monospaced typefaces anymore. Apart from programming and numeric tabulation, almost all typographic tasks can be happily managed with proportional fonts.
Despite Courier being the de facto standard font for correspondence, reports, and almost all business and office communication up until the era of the personal computer, its use today is steadily declining. A good example for this is the replacement of 12 point Courier New by 14 point Times New Roman as the U.S. State Department’s standard typeface in January 2004. Reasons for the change included the desire for a more modern and legible font.
However, there are still certain tasks and applications where Courier still sports a healthy presence. For example the screenwriting industry: Because the
Another area that still heavily relies on Courier is
While ASCII art is loosely based on early