When I first started using a Mac, the wide range of high-quality typefaces that were available for it fascinated me. Imagine how annoying it was that my boss insisted on the use of Courier as the company font. He claimed it was the font that our customers were accustomed to and that it made quotes and other documents appear trustworthy. Even twenty years later, those memories are still vivid enough to include Courier in my list of interesting fonts.

What does Courier look like?

Courier New Regular

Courier New Regular

Courier New Bold

Courier New Bold

Courier New Italic

Courier New Italic

What do you use Courier for?

Courier isn’t a particularly legible typeface, nor does it look modern or elegant. Obviously it is well suited for documents that need to look as if they were created using a typewriter. :-) It is also a good choice if you need an old-style government or bureaucratic look.

Since Courier is a monospaced font, which means that all characters have the same width, it can be practical in documents which contain aligned columns of text. There are better monospaced fonts around though, such as special versions of Helvetica and Lucida or the Mac’s Monaco font.

Apparently Hollywood screenplays are often written in 12 point Courier.

The history of Courier

Courier was designed in 1955 by Howard Kettler. IBM used it for their typewriters but didn’t secure the rights to the design. Numerous companies copied the font, making it the standard typeface for typewriters. This didn’t stop IBM from having Adrian Frutiger redesign the font for their famous Selectric series of typewriters.

Windows 3.1 contained another updated version of Courier, called Courier New. It was produced by Monotype. In updates of this font, additional glyphs (character shapes) have been added. Version 5 contains over 2700 characters.


Originally Courier was called Messenger. Here is what Howard Kettler said about the name change: “A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability.”

Other sources of information

Wikipedia has an interesting page on Courier. More information on its use in business communication and screenplays is available in this essay.

11 December 2015

2 responses to “Courier”

  1. Jay Wiese says:

    Used to use Courier back in the day for college papers. I had the idea that it would be more familiar to my professors who (I assumed) grew up with typewriters. Also it was easier to fill 20 pages with Courier than with Arial.

  2. Tim Francis says:

    “Apparently Hollywood screenplays are often written in 12 point Courier.”

    Not often, Courier 12 is the only font the studios accept: It relates to the length of a film, one page of action equals one minute of screen time. Thus a studio can quickly evaluate if a new work is the “right” length, the target is usually 120 pages or 120 minutes. Additional checks are made for the Act One/Act Two boundary, and Act Two/Three boundary, Page 45 etc.

    If a script gets ticked off on these points, the film is then passed through to the readers for evaluation (ie, read). Not a foolproof system but screening out thousands of poorly prepared works needs a system.

    Courier 12 is right at the heart of that system.

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