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?
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 needs 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.