Cooper Black, the most famous and successful of Oswald Cooper’s type designs was released in 1920, following a year of development fleshing out the weight of the typeface and filling out the full character set. Cooper redrew the lowercase characters multiple times, toying with the rounded forms of the “m” and “n” and engaged in a lively debate with Barnhart Bros. & Spindler’s General Manager Richard N. McArthur over the final form as McArthur requested that the typeface be drawn bolder and bolder. Cooper famously said the face was "for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers", and the public agreed. Sales of Cooper Black were voluminous, and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler had a difficult time keeping up with the demand for the typeface. Conservative typographers were critical of Cooper Black, though it was overwhelmingly popular, helping to shape the American advertising landscape through the 1920s and 1930s.
1925 saw the release of Cooper Black Condensed, a “condensed but not squeezed” variation on the Cooper Black theme. McArthur and Cooper had the usual lively back-and-forth over the shapes of some of the letterforms, in particularly the uppercase “Q”, resulting in a thoroughly accomplished alphabet. The first showing specimen of Cooper Black Condensed compared the new face with Cooper Black, showing that it was 20 less wide and that it promised to “show something of gentility while being able to spit on its hands and make itself useful”.
This typeface is the result of researching and faithfully redrawing characters from Cooper’s original drawings and series of engraved proofs for this typeface. The typeface includes the full range of punctuation and diacritics that fill out a full character set. The typeface has been lovingly kerned for the smoothest result in text setting.
What was the inspiration for designing the font? While researching a biographic essay for Japan’s IDEA Magazine, I came across the original proofs and drawings for Cooper Black Condensed. While a number of foundries have released interpretations of Cooper Black Condensed, they stray from the original rather dramatically in parts. Cooper is without a doubt my favorite type and lettering designer, and to bring a refined return to his original intentions is an immense gift.
What are its main characteristics and features? Cooper Black Condensed is a standalone display font. It is a round, juicy, super-personality-filled piece of graphic evidence from times gone by.
Usage recommendations: Display type or text-setting. Perfect for newspaper work, editorial design, materials intended to invoke an "old-timey" flavor, or just about anything in need of personality.