Carl Dair

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Harris Carleton Dair (February 14, 1912 – September 28, 1967), known as Carl Dair, was a Canadian graphic designer. He left a lasting legacy as a teacher, type designer, design practitioner, and author. Even though he was primarily a self-taught designer, Dair would emerge to win international recognition and codify visual design principles still relevant today.[1]


Dair was born in Crowland Township in Welland, Ontario, in 1912, to William Albert Dair and Bertha Minnie Dair (née White).[2] Dair's first job as an 18-year-old was creating advertising and layouts for the Stratford Beacon-Herald.[1] He would move on to form a partnership with Henry Eveleigh and set-up the Dair-Eveleigh Studio from 1947-51 in Montréal, Quebec. He worked principally as a freelance designer on a variety of jobs from department store art director to the typographic director for the National Film Board of Canada (1945).[1] Dair lectured on typography at the Ontario College of Art between 1959 and 1962, as well as teaching at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts for two years.[3]

With the publication of Design with Type in 1952, revised and republished in 1967, he demonstrated a deep understanding of how to design using primarily type and formal design principles. He outlined visual principles of harmony and contrast codifying seven kinds of typographic contrast: size, weight, structure, form, texture, colour, and direction. "Contrast is the opposite of concord; it is based on a unity of differences."[4] Design with Type became the first Canadian book to receive the Book of the Year Award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).[5] It was republished by the University of Toronto Press (First Edition) in 2000.

The period from 1956-57 was extremely productive for Dair when he received the RSC fellowship to study type design and manufacture in the Netherlands.[1] During this period he had the opportunity to study metal type and hand-punching at Enschedé Foundry in Haarlem, Netherlands, where he created a silent film called Gravers and Files documenting "one of the last great punchcutters, P. H. Radisch, demonstrating his craft—it is perhaps the only such film in existence".[6] His experiences at Enschedé were also a formative influence in the typeface, for instance, Dair later created a typeface called Cartier.[6]

Cartier was commissioned and released for Canada's 1967 centenary celebrations. The original design was based on hand-lettering and had some failings as a typeface until it was sensitively adjusted by Rod McDonald for Monotype Imaging and released in 2000.[7] Cartier can be identified as an attempt to create a regional typeface for Canada. "It is now widely used and appears to have achieved the status of an identifiable national type."[8]

Through his practice, teaching, and writing, Dair built an international reputation and received a number of awards.[1] In 1959, he was awarded the silver medal at the Internationale Buchkunst-Austellung in Leipzig, East Germany. In 1962, The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts awarded him its Arts Medal. In 1967, he became a fellow in the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC).

Dair died on a flight from New York City to Toronto on September 28, 1967.[1] The Faculty of Fine Arts at York University honors Dair's contribution to design in Canada with the Carl Dair Memorial Scholarship. A large collection of Dair's work can be seen on Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art website.


Typefaces Designed by Carl Dair:


Letters are like molecules when they combine with one another. (Dair, 1967)

Typographical rhythm is no less a rhythm because it exists only in space and is perceived instantaneously. (Dair, 1967)


Dair, C. Design with type. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, (1952; 2nd ed 1967)

A Typographic Quest, 6 pamphlets published by Westvaco Papers in the 1960s

Dair, C. (Director). (1957). Gravers and Files [Film].


  1. ^ a b c d e f Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC). (2007, November 17). Gdc fellows: 1960 recipients. Retrieved from
  2. ^ "Harris Carleton Dair, 14 Feb 1912"; Ontario Births, 1869-1912, Archives of Ontario
  3. ^ Carl Dair Fonds. Massey College, Toronto (MS Word doc). Retrieved from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  4. ^ Dair, C. Design with type. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967
  5. ^ University of Toronto Press (Retrieved August 3, 2011) "Timeline."
  6. ^ a b The Devil's Artisan. (2008). A rogue's gallery of the canadian book and printing arts: carl dair. Retrieved from
  7. ^ (2011). Cartier. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Lewis, L. (2011). The canadian encyclopedia/the encyclopedia of music in canada: dair, carl. Retrieved from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-29. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  9. ^ Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson. The Encyclopedia of Type Faces. Blandford Press Lts.: 1953, 1983, ISBN 0-7137-1347-X, p. 37
  10. ^ "Carl Dair Pro". MyFont. 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

External links[edit]

Examples of work[edit]

  • [6] Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art: The Canadian Art Database
  • [7] Stamp Designs at the Library and Archives Canada

Cartier typeface suppliers[edit]

  • [8] Font Shop
  • [9] Monotype Imaging
  • [10] Linotype