Distinction, versatility and communicative power: Garth Graphic has all the qualities of a Monotype classic. The ample x-height and generous character proportions of Garth Graphic make it more of a space-guzzler than space-saver. Fortunately, there are two well-designed condensed versions to choose from when space is at a premium.
So many typefaces are named after their designers, one might assume that being a type designer is the only way to get a typeface named after you. But Garth Graphic, in addition to being a distinctive and versatile design, is proof that you don’t have to create the face to be its namesake. The founding of a major phototypesetting company is enough – or at least it was back in 1979.
The story begins with a typeface designed in the 1960s by John Matt for American Type Founders – named, not surprisingly, Matt Antique. Matt Antique was to be part of the type library offered with ATF’s phototypesetting machine. Unfortunately, when plans for the introduction of the phototypesetter were scrapped, John Matt’s design suffered a similar fate.
For almost a decade, Matt’s design lay dormant, along with a hundred or so other typefaces intended for the now-abandoned ATF phototypesetter. Finally, someone at ATF realized that these designs would have value to a company that was successfully making and selling phototypesetting equipment. ATF approached several firms, but it was Compugraphic (the company that would eventually become Monotype Imaging) that purchased the collection. In 1976, several boxes of artwork, production prints and trial proofs were delivered to their new owner. All that remained of Matt Antique, however, was a small 12-point proof of the roman and italic design.
It took Compugraphic’s staff designers almost three years to transform the letters on the small proof into a complete typeface family. Although the heritage of Matt Antique clearly shows in their work, many subtle and not-so-subtle changes were made to John Matt’s original ATF design proposal. The completed family was named after Compugraphic’s founder, William Garth, Jr., and released in the spring of 1979.
A first look at Garth Graphic shows the influence of pen and ink: its cupped serifs, diagonal weight stress, sheared terminals and flowing curves all suggest that this is a face conceived and drawn by a master calligrapher. A closer look, however, reveals a precise and carefully constructed substructure on which the letters are built. As a result, Garth Graphic is a sturdy type that performs well under a wide variety of printing and viewing conditions.
The serifs of Garth Graphic have somewhat of a dual personality. In text sizes, they appear to be sheared, and a single stroke. In larger sizes, however, it becomes apparent that they are actually clipped at two angles. This unusual detail reinforces the broad-edged quality of Garth Graphic in small sizes, and helps create a strong graphic texture when the face is set large in display applications. Moderate contrast in stroke thickness also adds to the design’s strength.