When Matthew Carter drew ITC Charter in 1987, he wanted the face to perform equally well on the high-resolution imagesetters and low-resolution printers available at that time. His goal was to create a typeface that could bring typographic beauty and clarity to a laser-printed office memo, a professionally printed fine book, or an advertising headline on newsprint. To achieve this ambitious goal, Carter looked to the past for inspiration – and then added some innovations of his own.
In proportion and form, ITC Charter follows traditional models: specifically, the old style typefaces developed in 18th-century France. Like the French designs, ITC Charter has relatively narrow capitals and angled weight stress in the lowercase bowls. Similarly, Charter’s italic serif structure and several characters echo types cut by P. S. Fournier in the 1740s.
Don’t mistake Charter for a revival, however. ITC Charter has serifs that are square and chunky in form, a far cry from the delicate designs seen in Fournier’s type. Lowercase ball-terminals are drawn with a straight trailing edge, instead of a full, round shape, and the lowercase italic’s proportions are almost as wide as the roman’s. In addition, ITC Charter offers a contrast in stroke weights that is much less severe than Fournier’s.
Square serif types are known for their durability under difficult printing conditions. Their more-open lowercase proportions aid character legibility and typographic readability.By tempering these rugged design traits with a sprinkling of Fournier, Carter created a fresh alternative to existing square serif designs. He also endowed ITC Charter with three other design features not typically found in old style types: narrow proportions for economy of space, a generous x-height to improve readability at small point sizes, and sturdy, open letterforms to insure reliable reproduction at all output resolutions.
By artfully melding his influences with a clear purpose in mind, Carter achieved his goals for ITC Charter. The result is a typeface family that is both handsome and versatile.