McDonald drew three weights for the Smart Sans family, all ideally suited for setting attention-getting headlines and powerful display copy. The two-storied ‘g’ contributes to the design’s lively personality, and the short ‘r’ helps maintain tight, even spacing.
Smart Sans is a personal tribute to Leslie (Sam) Smart, the first type director to be hired by a major typesetting house in Canada. Smart was a twentieth century design pioneer who raised the standards of Canadian typography. Together with three of his peers, he established the first Type Directors Club in Toronto.
After Smart’s death in 1998, type designer Rod McDonald decided that something should be done to commemorate Smart’s life and achievements. “I had first thought of establishing a scholarship in Sam’s name, but a typeface design soon replaced this idea,” says McDonald. “Once I decided to design a typeface, however, it became a foregone conclusion that it would be a sans serif – for no other reason than that I loved the name Smart Sans.”
Two typefaces served as inspiration for McDonald’s work. “Like thousands of designers, I’m keen on Matthew Carter’s Helvetica Compressed series. And, when I was younger, I also loved Fred Lambert’s Compacta,” says McDonald. “I thought there might be a place for a small range that could take over from these ‘old workhorses’ and, in the process, bring a fresher look to the genre.”
Smart Sans is the perfect homage to a great typographer, because it raises the bar on what to expect from condensed sans serif typefaces. Sam Smart would be pleased.