Since his career’s beginnings in the mid–1970s, Rod McDonald’s work as a designer, educator, historian and prolific writer has encompassed virtually every aspect of the typographic arts. Despite his accomplishments as a lettering artist, however, it was twenty years before McDonald tackled his first typeface design.
“I felt that my career had plateaued,” McDonald recalls. “I was doing a lot of wordmarks and corporate alphabets, but yearned to do more. I wanted to produce a true typeface design.” His first undertaking was a highly detailed and sensitive revival of Carl Dair’s Cartier Originally released in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s centennial, Cartier was the first text typeface designed in Canada. McDonald’s digital revival, Cartier Book, refined Dair’s sometimes problematic design and expanded it into a fully functional type family which is both distinctive and remarkably legible.
McDonald began his second typeface family in 2001 when a Canadian magazine, Maclean’s, invited him to join the design team to “renovate” the 96–year–old publication. McDonald would be responsible for designing a new masthead and for the overall typography of the magazine, including the design of a new text typeface family for the magazine’s pages. This was the first time that a Canadian magazine had commissioned a custom typeface.
The face, named Laurentian, was launched in Maclean’s July 1, Canada Day issue. In January of 2003, Laurentian was entered in the New York Type Directors Club Annual Typographic Competition and was one of thirteen designs chosen by the international jury. Laurentian is now part of the Monotype typeface library.
McDonald has worked both as a freelance typographic designer and on the staff of such companies as Mono Lino Typesetting and the renowned Cooper & Beatty typesetting house in Toronto. His alphabets, wordmarks and symbols have been used by organizations ranging from General Motors and the National Arts Centre to Canadian Business and Chatelaine magazines. He has taught numerous typography courses at the Ontario College of Art and Design and is currently teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. McDonald also writes a column on typography for Applied Arts magazine.