Recovering a Canadian Artifact


November 3, 2017


Shinntype restores a legendary Canadian typeface


For an unofficial Canada 150 project, Shinntype proprietor Nick Shinn challenged himself to restore to an important piece of Canadian type history.


Cartier, the 1967 typeface by Carl Dair, is widely known as Canada’s first text typeface, but wasn’t used extensively in printed materials until type designer Rod McDonald’s 2000 revival, Cartier Book. That version, for Monotype, positioned Cartier as a digital-forward font but was, upon comparison, noticeably different than the 1967 original. 


Shinn decided to bring Dair’s version into 2017, aptly naming the typeface Dair. To get as close as possible to the original letterforms, he used a printed passage from the 1968 book The Magic Fiddler and Other Legends of French Canada, which was set in Cartier, to redraw the entire system and render it digitally. He magnified each letter using 600 dpi resolution and traced the forms repeatedly as he went back and forth to the source material.


“Working in this manner, rather than from Dair’s drawings or the original film font, would, I reasoned, best capture his intention,” notes Shinn in his case study of the project. “Another, and more functional, reason to work from the printed image: Dair’s ultra-retro design was informed by letterpress printing, a process he was deeply involved with, and in which there is notable press gain.”


Shinn’s efforts translated to several font families including Dair 67, an untouched near-facsimile of the original Cartier typeface, as well as Dair, the lightly retouched version with OpenType features such as small caps and fractions.


Read Shinn's full case study here.


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