History



Courier is a monospaced slab-serif typeface that was designed in 1955 by Howard G. Kettler and commissioned by IBM for the use in type-bar typewriters.


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 IBM Model C Electric Typewriter and the IBM Model C Executive Typewriter in 1959, the typeface was slightly altered for the IBM Selectric Typewriter, that was introduced in 1961 featuring a moving carriage with an interchangeable spherical printing element (frequently called a "typeball").


Courier was later adapted for Adobe's Type 1 font technology used in PostScript (→), which was first used by the Apple LaserWriter and now serves as the standard language in the printing industry.


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 Linotype Machines, sparking his interest in typography.


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 Adrian Frutiger, with whom Kettler also worked closely on fonts for the IBM Selectric Composer.


While being known for creating Courier in 1955, Kettler's career at IBM encompasses a number of other typefaces such as Prestige Elite, Advocate or the Braille font for the IBM Braille Writer.


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!"

Characteristics



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 same amount of horizontal space, in contrast to variable-width fonts, where the letters differ in size from one another.


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 two different pitches: standard 12-point pica (10 characters per inch) and 10-point elite (12 characters per inch). It was later adapted to different point sizes from 6–12 points for the IBM Selectric.

Form and Shape



When Kettler started working on Courier he decided to construct a slab-serif typeface, which is characterized by thick, block-like serifs that are connected to the stroke without a bracket.


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 low cap-height (570 units in Courier compared to Times New Roman's 662 units) and an ascender to x-height ratio of 613:423 (Courier compared to Times New Romans's ratio of 683:450). It is interesting to note that the ascenders of lowercase letters exceed the cap-height of uppercase letters in Courier by more than 40 units.


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 a and g, as well as the uppercase A, R and Q.

Versions



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:



AaBbCc

Courier by Adobe (→)



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Courier by Linotype (→)



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Courier by Monotype (→)



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Courier 10 Pitch by Bitstream Inc. (→)



AaBbCc

Courier New by Microsoft (→)



AaBbCc

Courier included with Final Draft (→)



AaBbCc

Courier included with Fade in Pro (→)



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Dark Courier by Hewlett Packard (→)



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Nimbus Mono L by URW++ (→)



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Courier Prime by Quote-Unquote Apps (→)

Additional Information



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 screenplay format developed in the typewriter era and has become loosely codified on the basis of that heritage, a writer today has to layout his screenplays similar to how they were done on a typewriter. A screenplay is therefore still set in 12 point (pica pitch) Courier with single line-spacing and 55 lines per page. This coincides with the rule that a single page is approximately one minute of screen time, helping the industry to judge the practicability of a screenplay.


Another area that still heavily relies on Courier is ASCII Art. ASCII Art is a graphic design technique that uses computers for presentation and consists of pictures pieced together from the 95 printable (from a total of 128) characters defined by the ASCII Standard from 1963 and ASCII compliant character sets with proprietary extended characters (beyond the 128 characters of standard 7-bit ASCII).


While ASCII art is loosely based on early typewriter art from the late 19th and early 20th century, one of the main reasons ASCII art was born was because early printers often lacked graphics ability and thus characters were used in place of graphic marks. ASCII art was also used in early e-mail when images could not be embedded. Due to the tabular layout of most ASCII Art a monospaced font such as Courier is necessary for presentation.

A Website about Courier.
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