Typographical Genius Matthew Carter Wins $500K MacArthur Fellowship

Matthew Carter, his Mac, and a capital “M” at home in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Master type designer Matthew Carter is among this year’s cohort of MacArthur Fellows, announced yesterday by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carter and 22 other individuals—including artist Jorge Pardo, biomedical animator Drew Berry, stone carver Nicholas Benson, and historian Annette Gordon-Reed—were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions. Each will receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached funding over the next five years. “My job is to make type that’s readable,” said Carter, 72, in a sun-dappled video interview with the Foundation. “Also, I want it to have some sort of quality that is mine.” In a career that has spanned four decades (from hot metal to the iPad), he has designed a whopping 60 typeface families and more than 250 individual fonts, along the way forging the belief that a good typeface is a good typeface, almost always regardless of the technology used to create it. And he has a way with evocative metaphors! “Like any industrial designer, what I produce has to work,” explained Carter. “There is a sort of struggle within the straitjacket of conforming to the conventions of the alphabet and yet not letting yourself get too depressed by these constraints.”