Cartier Book is a painstaking and intelligent revival of Carl Dair’s alphabet design. By carefully tailoring Dair’s ideas into a fully developed typeface family, designer Rod McDonald has lifted Dair’s original into a whole new league.
Dair’s design was first shown in 1967 at the beginning of Canada's centenary year, and is generally credited as the country’s first important typeface. While certainly a high point in the chronology of Canadian design, Dair’s alphabet fell short of fully making the leap from lettering to typeface.
What does this mean? Lettering and calligraphy allow for variety and individuality in character shapes; the overall design parameters of a hand-drawn alphabet are relatively loose. In a typeface, however, all the characters must share a consistent underlying structure. The most difficult task in typeface design is producing letters that are sufficiently “anonymous” to work in harmony with each other, yet still possess distinction and verve.
Rod McDonald’s Cartier Book, while based on Dair’s design, refines the original’s distinctive character shapes into a unified, commanding typeface family. Cartier Book easily creates arresting display settings and distinctive text copy that is remarkably legible.
Dair’s accomplishment was the design,” explains McDonald. “I tried to make it a working typeface. I spent the first year cleaning up the inconsistencies, removing the quirks – basically regularizing the design. The next year was spent putting energy back into the typeface, giving it back the life Dair gave it.” He added, “The second year was the hardest.
McDonald’s design feat successfully melds the qualities that make a typeface distinctive with those that ensure lasting value. Few designs are as elegantly functional and stunningly attractive as Cartier Book. The family includes three roman weights, with small caps and an italic complement to the Regular weight.