Cooper Black

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CategorySerif; display type
Designer(s)Oswald Bruce Cooper
FoundryBarnhart Brothers & Spindler
Date released1922
Re-issuing foundriesAmerican Type Founders, Wordshape

Cooper Black is an ultra-bold serif typeface intended for display use that was designed by Oswald Bruce Cooper and released by the Barnhart Brothers & Spindler type foundry in 1922.[1] The typeface was drawn as an extra-bold weight of Cooper's "Cooper Old Style" family. It rapidly became a standard typeface and was licensed by American Type Founders and also copied by many other manufacturers of printing systems.[2][3][4]

Cooper Black followed on from Cooper's career as a lettering artist in Chicago and the Midwest of America in the 1920s.[3][5][6] Cooper Black was advertised as being "for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers", as well as "the Black Menace" by detractors.[7] While very bold, Cooper Black is based on traditional "old-style" serif lettering, rather than the hard-edged "fat face" fonts popular in the nineteenth century, giving it a soft, 'muddy' appearance, with relatively low contrast between thick and thin strokes.[8][9][10][8][11]

Cooper Hilite[edit]

A specimen sheet of Cooper Hilite.

Cooper Hilite is a version of Cooper Black originally designed by painting white relief impressions into a printed proof of Cooper Black.[3] It has been digitised by ParaType and Wordshape.[12]

Imitations and variants[edit]

Cooper Black compared to Cooper's earlier Cooper Old Style. This was a quirky variation on the old-style serif model, similar to Cooper's lettering and predominantly intended for display and advertising use.

Cooper Black was immediately popular and spawned imitations, including Goudy Heavy Face from Frederic Goudy, Ludlow Black and Pabst Extra Bold.[13][14]

Many unusual versions of Cooper were created in the phototypesetting period of the 1960s and 1970s, a period of explosion in production of display faces. These included "Ziptop Cooper Black" from Photo Lettering Inc., a version with the top bolder than the bottom, and other distorted variants.[15]

Many digitisations of Cooper Black exist from companies including Bitstream, Adobe and others.[8] Soap, designed by Ray Larabie of Typodermic, is a uni-case variant.[16] A version from URW, which does not include an italic, is bundled with many Microsoft products.[17] Cooper Old Style has been digitised by URW.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cooper Black". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  2. ^ Neil Macmillan (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  3. ^ a b c Heller, Steven. "Telling and selling". Eye. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  4. ^ Eisinger, Dale. "The Complete History of the Cooper Black Font in Hip-Hop". Complex. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  5. ^ Shinn, Nick. "The Golden Age of Hand Lettering in American Advertising". Type Culture. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  6. ^ Middleton, R. Hunter (1937). Chicago Letter Founding. Chicago: Black Cat Press. pp. 22–23. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  7. ^ Steven Heller (6 May 2014). Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design. Allworth Press. pp. 217–9. ISBN 978-1-62153-413-6.
  8. ^ a b c Heck, Bethany. "Cooper". Font Review Journal. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  9. ^ Phinney, Thomas. "Fat faces". Graphic Design and Publishing Centre. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  10. ^ Kennard, Jennifer. "The Story of Our Friend, the Fat Face". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  11. ^ Bramley, Ellie Violet. "Just my type: how Cooper Black became 2017's most fashionable font". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Cooper Hilite". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  13. ^ Tracy, Walter. Letters of Credit. pp. 130–1.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Ziptop Cooper Black". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Cooper Black". Microsoft. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Cooper Old Style". MyFonts. URW. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  • Allan Haley. Typographic Milestones. John Wiley and Sons: September 1992. ISBN 978-0-471-28894-7.
  • Blackwell, Lewis. 20th Century Type. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10073-6.
  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • 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.
  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.

External links[edit]