Two Strangers

This is a story of two men, who shared a common goal, one knowingly, one not. Through their combined efforts these strangers would create for all the first truly Canadian typeface, Cartier Roman & Cartier Book.

In 1957, designer, Carl Dair was chosen to create a new and distinctive Canadian typeface. In 1966 the first proof of Cartier (roman & italic) was published as 'the first Canadian type for text composition' to mark the Centenary of Canadian Confederation." Unfortunately Dair had only completed roman (upper & lower case) and italic (lower case only). Some say that due to his ego he would not allow the type studios to complete it for him. So his vision along with that of Cartier died with him in 1968, or so we thought.

It's 1973 and Rod McDonald enters the picture. Though their paths had never crossed, McDonald would learn about Dair's work through the company Mono Lino typesetting. It being the oldest typesetting company in the country and holder of the exclusive rights to Carl Dair's Cartier typeface. Rod McDonald began the redesign of Cartier in the fall of 1998. By January, 2000 Cartier Roman and Italic were redesigned into working typefaces. McDonald presented Cartier Book Regular, Cartier Book Medium, Cartier Book Bold and Cartier Book Italic. What an incredible achievement in such a short time.

Upon completion, McDonald received an inquiry from the Department of Canadian Heritage. They were looking for a truly Canadian typeface to be used in all its print materials to commemorate the new millenium. They chose rather to use Times and Arial. However short-sited this decision was, it does not detract in any way to Rod McDonald's accomplishments. Agfa Monotype is now the holder of the American rights to the typeface but McDonald prudently retained the Canadian rights.

Carl Dair, I'm certain would be pleased at the outcome of his designs. As proud Canadians, we should thank Mr. McDonald for completing such an awesome task so brilliantly and for preserving some of our heritage. Take a bow Rod McDonald, you deserve it!

Fast Facts:

Rod McDonald

Professor of typography, Ontario College of Art, Toronto, ON

Jan. 2000 - Plaque commemorating Rod McDonald's Cartier Book unveiled at the National Arts Center, Ottawa, On

Carl Dair (1912 - 1968)

Designer and writer of the book "Designing with Type"

Cartier Book

Available @ the Font Shop, Toronto,ON

For more Information:

Article and interviews with Rod McDonald about Cartier Book as well as info about typography

History of Canadian Type Design by Nicholas Fabian


Applied Arts Magazine: Editorial, November/December 1999

Editorial by Sara Curtis and reproduced with permission ( copies available upon request)


Step-by-Step Magazine Look for an upcoming article on Rod McDonald & Cartier Book


Samples of Cartier (for a sneak preview provided by Rod McDonald click here)

Short info on Carl Dair

You can purchase Carl Dair's book entitled, "Design with Type" from this site.

It is still in print after 33 years.