Charcoal (typeface)

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Designer(s)David Berlow
Commissioned byApple Computer
FoundryFont Bureau
Date created1995
Design based onChicago font
Charcoal CY

Charcoal is a sans-serif typeface designed by David Berlow of Font Bureau during the period 1994–1997. Charcoal was the default menu font in Apple Computer's Mac OS 8 and 9, replacing the comparatively harder-to-read Chicago as part of the new Platinum interface. In Mac OS X developer preview 3, it was replaced with Lucida Grande as the system typeface. Charcoal is designed for high legibility, even at smaller point sizes, displayed on computer monitors.

While similar in design to grotesque sans-serifs, Charcoal has a distinctive organic quality. The letterforms have a high x-height, a vertical axis, and maintain generous counter-form in and around the letterforms. Descending characters, g, j, p, q, and y are shallow, compensating for the high x-height, and allowing for reduced leading in text. While designed primarily for monitor display, Charcoal has had considerable popularity in print, including in letterpress printing.

Virtue is a free TrueType font of similar design sometimes used as a surrogate on non-Apple systems.


Truth, an expanded Charcoal family, is sold by Font Bureau, designed by David Berlow, and was released in 2005. It contains small differences from Charcoal, and is available in seven weights: Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, Bold, Black, and Ultra.


  • Friedrich Friedl; Nicolaus Ott; Bernard Stein (1998). Typography: an Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Throughout History. Black Dog & Leventhal. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.

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