The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black

You might think that Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Bebas Neue, EB Garamond, and more are the most popular typefaces out there. Well, it’s time to look around. You will realize, strangely, that Cooper Black is everywhere.

It was designed by a Chicago-based typographer Oswald Cooper in 1922 as a metal typeface. Since then, it has become a staple typeface especially in the world of advertising. It was used on posters to sell cars, medicines, and even ginger ales. But not just that, it also dominated newspaper headlines and large-scale posters.

In 1927, its foundry declared Cooper Black as the world’s bestselling typeface.

With its unassuming but loud personality, Cooper Black is known for its curves. It almost looks like a ‘vulcanized’ version of formal and common typefaces. Its unapologetic statement makes words and headlines even more appealing to the eyes of its audience.

“The fact that Cooper doesn’t necessarily need to be laid in a straight line to look good is an advantage,” says Bethany Heck, a designer who writes about typefaces, on Vox. She was asked regarding Cooper’s attempt to break the tradition of most typefaces having consistent straight lines on its edges.

Four decades after its birth, its resurgence is unstoppable. Cooper Black is seen almost everywhere, especially in pop culture.

“Cooper Black is so closely associated with the 1960’s and 70’s that it consumes our view of the typeface today. After a few quiet decades it roared back onto the scene in iconic pieces of pop culture, like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds cover. It matched the hippy aesthetic well with its wobbly, loose design and it’s obvious calligraphic background. It was everything the rigid modernism of the mid-century wasn’t and was adopted heavily in both commercial and counter-cultural circles,” writes frontreviewjournal.com.

This typeface works best with saturated colors. It allows itself to shine through the page without compromising its legibility.

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black
{Photo from bpando.org. A coffee shop Weekend used Cooper Black for its packaging}

After appearing on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds cover, Cooper Black also made an appearance on The Doors’ LA Woman (1971), David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust (1972), and was also the typeface of The Garfield Show and M*A*S*H.

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black
{Album cover from amazon.com}

It is no secret that the hip-hop culture has a big influence when it comes to the art and street-culture of a particular era. Cooper stands the test of time as it has been adapted by hip-hop icons like Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean in their albums.

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black

See, it’s everywhere. The next thing you’ll realize is that the household brand Tootsie Roll also uses Cooper Black on its packaging.

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black
{Photo from fontsinuse.com}

In 2017, The Guardian named Cooper Black as the most fashionable font after being used by famous fashion brands like Topshop, Sezane and Pull and Bear in their statement shirts.

The Quirkiness and Versatility of Cooper Black
{Sezane's line of shirts}

Cooper Black’s strength lies in the wide use of designers thus triggering nostalgia. It has been shown across cultures and established brands. Would you use it on your next project? Share it with us at virtuoso@athl.com.hk.

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