Monday, February 11, 2008

Confusion About Cooper Black

Honestly, for some reason many sections of 7th Avenue in Park Slope give me a stuffy feeling. I'm not sure why that is, but gazing at the Ace Supermarket I suddenly got a feeling of air and freshness. It must be the sign, but by what alchemy of design did it restore my ability to breathe? Perhaps it's that dusty turquoise, a color that used to be popular for signs but now is all too often being replaced with the "safe" forest green or burgundy vinyl awning signs. That's exactly what happened to the old turquoise sign at the Royal Supermarket on the corner of 15th and 8th. Can you imagine the nightmare of walking around the slope seeing nothing but rivers of forest green awnings?

Or maybe the sign just has a feeling of spaciousness based on it's proportions. The typeface used to print "Ace Supermarket" is Cooper Black, I believe, and I for one like it. I'm not sure if it's because it's chubby like a healthy baby, or if it's paradoxically joyfully buoyant and weighted at the same time, like a particularly well-stocked store. Perhaps it's the vintage appeal, I know I've seen this succulent font in abundance since childhood, and that was a long time ago.

I imagined the typeface was named after a man, but then by coincidence some of my daughter's homework was lying on the floor and it discussed the ancient trade of building containers that held various provisions. A tradesman called a "tight cooper" made finely crafted vessels to hold liquids, a "slack cooper" made vessels for things less leaky like flour and tobacco, and a "white cooper" made containers from cedar or pine. Some of the types of containers these coopers made were firkin, kilderkin, hogshead, butt, rundlet, tierce, puncheon and pipe. I hope my daughter had fun with that vocabulary. I'm waiting to hear her use those words in casual conversation around the house.

Well, in spite of the astonishing coincidence, it turns out the typeface is not named after the trade but is named after its creator Oswald Bruce Cooper (via wikipedia.) But of course, his family name most likely derives from the trade. Either way, it's a typeface very befitting grocery stores. It has a pleasantly full look, which is nice because in this age of opulence and anorexia, it's hard to remember the depths of joy a full and well-made barrel of flour can inspire.

Here's a Behind the Type episode about Cooper Black. From it, I learned how the history of the typeface bears certain resemblances to the bio of Britney Spears.

1 comment:

Lisanne said...

That font was very popular in the 70's. My friends & I had a many a t-shirt with our names in iron-on letters in that font, you could get it done at Woolworth's or McCrory's. Also girls used to get their boyfriends names on their shirts too, I don't think kids do that now, I sure hope not!