Cooper Black is my homeboy

scottsullivan's picture

Okay, for the sake of conversation, let's just assume that I'm not a complete moron: I've been having this deep and painful obsession with COOPER BLACK for a good five months now.. it haunts me in my dreams and I want to put it in every single project that comes my way, I just think it's beautiful (even center justified).

All of my designer friends and professors have been making fun of me NON STOP! So am I just crazy?? My professors say that I don't get it because I was born 1985 and was not around when it was most popular.. so after I graduate to the real world and you guys see me when you meet up for your lavish champagne and cocaine fueled black tie parties, are you gonna kick me out if I can't shake this thing?

Yehan's picture

>are you gonna kick me out if I can’t shake this thing?

LOL. Yes.

Seriously though, I'm not sure I would want to put it into every project I do...but it has it's uses. I USED to like it too..for awhile...long long ago (pre design school days, when I also thought bradley hand was a nice font)

I actually like the curves and feel of it, but it's so...out of place for most things. So I've given up on it, UNLESS the right project comes along.

paragraph's picture

Scott, I am almost afraid to mention Souvenir in front of you :-|

Yehan's picture

Haha..oh God. I draw the line at Souvenir. All I can say is thankfully we don't see it anymore.

skeetone's picture

...Yes... don't we all just... hate Cooper...?

<--- (quietly pointing at my picture, I do like it as well, don't tell anyone!)

AtoZ's picture


People can be attracted to / enthusiastic over / obsessed with almost anything.

Think about what attracts one person to another -- there's an incredibly wide range of possibilities: some people only like blondes, others only like redheads; some like people who are skinny, others only like people who are heavy; etc. There no right or wrong -- it's a matter of personal taste. However, there are some commonly accepted ranges of what constitutes good looks, and if you want a career as say, a casting director, and you only want to cast chubby redheads (because that what attracts you), you may expect to have problems finding work.

The same reasoning applies to fonts. As hard as it is for me to admit, there is nothing wrong with being obsessed with Cooper Black, but you can't expect others to feel the same.

Your best bet is to become a closet Cooper Black addict. Wallpaper your bedroom in Cooper Black specimen sheets, collect books with Cooper Black covers -- do whatever you want in the privacy of your own home, even share your obsession with friends (but don't expect much enthusiasm from most of them).

When it comes to your professional life, strive to always pick the best typeface for the job (not for your personal taste). And who knows, one day maybe the perfect job will come along that will just demand Cooper Black.
         When going from A to Z,
         I often end up At Oz.

Yehan's picture

Now that sounds like good advice:D

paulstonier's picture

Cooper Black makes me smile.

jupiterboy's picture

There are design groups that use a single font almost exclusively. Taking the unloved and unwanted and presenting it in a way that makes people rethink their prejudice is admirable and enviable if not always possible.

kentlew's picture

For you, Scott -- from the 1925 catalog of the original foundry, Barnhart Brothers & Spindler:

kentlew's picture

And remember . . .

will powers's picture

I can understand Scott's obsession perfectly, for I had it to a lesser degree 40 years ago, when I was just a few years younger than he. I was an apprentice hand compositor in a shop that had a full range of mats for Ludlow Black, which was an interpretation of Cooper Black.

What did I not set in Ludlow Black when I was allowed use of the Ludlow machine on my own time? I set damn near everything in Black: friends' wedding announcements and invites, letterheads, the envelopes in which I returned correspondence school geography lessons to the university of Iowa, family letterheads. You name it.

As Kent's examples show, Cooper offers good instruction in how to think about word space and leading that work best with a face. I did not realize it at the time, but I was in fact studying those aspects of typography as I used Black.

Eventually I moved on and forsook Black. My next love was Ludlow Garamond, which offered very different challenges. Soon enough I moved to a Monotype shop and then my young eyes really opened.

So go for it Scott: use it but don't abuse it. Black is great for early lessons. Maybe you will unlock some Black secrets and show us new ways.


Ricardo Cordoba's picture

A few of Steven Heller's books have used Cooper Black, either on the cover or inside -- albeit as a kind of shorthand for humor or lightheartedness...

Design Humor: The Art of Graphic Wit

Teaching Illustration


Scott, I am almost afraid to mention Souvenir in front of you

LOL! For the record, back in 1986, when I was at university in Buenos Aires, we started a student design magazine (which lasted only three issues!). We wanted to avoid Times New Roman for the text face, because we'd heard that it could print with gaps... We ended up going with Souvenir. :-D

scottsullivan's picture

Hey! Thanks guys! hah I'll keep it down and wait for the perfect opportunity to let 'er loose. and Souvenir is officially on my shopping list!!

- Scott

David Rault's picture

Hey Scott,

Good for you; I am also a real fan of good ol' Cooper. I tried to convince my publisher to use it on the cover of my book, but I didn't win this battle. Though I am seeing more and more "trendy" books sporting this wonderful typeface, which makes me happy and smile too. When you are tired of Cooper Black, you might take a look at Souvenir, as mentioned, or Goudy Black (the shameful rip-off from FW Goudy), or Soap, or Supercooper, or Rosemary... And you might also sigh at the view of this wonderful handwriting example of Oz Cooper, basically Cooper Black but with more freedom and more je-ne-sais-quoi.

Long life to Cooper Black, a truely beautiful typeface.


David Rault's picture

And also...


David Rault's picture

More Eye Candy


David Rault's picture

And some examples of great design with Cooper Black, from the sixties till now (in order to prove that the typeface IS great, the problem is usally the designer).


paragraph's picture

Now that Cooper Black and Souvenir are here again, can I have my sex life back, please?

PublishingMojo's picture

@ David R.: The Girl with Green Eyes type is Souvenir.
@ scottsullivan: Have you ever used Cooper Light?

This probably won't cure your addiction, but it will make life easier for the folks who read the stuff you design.

Nachos's picture

Scott, I still listen to Styx. Why does everyone think I have bad taste?

Yehan's picture

Cooper light? It's not bad actually...

paragraph's picture

I never before realised that type works like immunisation: once you develop antibodies to Shatter, Calypso, Sinaloa, Good Vibrations, Cooper Black, Souvenir and Optima, there is no going back ... huh.

blank's picture

The complete Bitstream Cooper series (Light, Medium, Bold, Black) is quite cool. I’m surprised it doesn’t get more use—especially because it comes with Corel Draw!

scottsullivan's picture

@ paragraph: I'll trade you a sweet sex life for a sweet career/portfolio

- Scott

paragraph's picture

You are quite right, Scott. You are starting in interesting times, as the Chinese curse says ...

mauphie's picture

Designer Armin Vit (of Under Consideration) created his own homage to Cooper Black.

chrisherron's picture

And of course, there's the Behind the Music spoof on Cooper Black.

scottsullivan's picture

WOAHH!! the behind the music spoof is AMAZING haha

- Scott

hrant's picture


oprion's picture

Always wanted to use it, but never found the courage.
Guess I am not man enough to handle Cooper Black :(
Personal Art and Design Portal of Ivan Gulkov

Kellie Strøm's picture

Cooper Light? Not the real thing - you want Cooper Oldstyle. This is it, but this is not.

someonesplendid's picture

always loved the cooper quote "the far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers". :)

nina's picture

Kellie, is there a good digital version of Cooper Oldstyle? That looks very yummy!

I admit to having a weakness for Black as well. It's just very… 70s. And reminds me of ads in old issues of Playboy magazine.
Thanks for this thread – now I've been seeing it everywhere again.  :-)

puffmoike's picture

Not forgetting Khoi Vinh's homage...

Kellie Strøm's picture

I don't know of a good commercially available Cooper Oldstyle. For my picture book Dutch designer Piet Schreuders used a customised version of a digitisation that's no longer commercially available, adding Cooper's ligatures and brackets. Well, I didn't need the brackets, and unfortunately the entertainingly twisted ff ligature was dropped from the US edition. You can see more extensive use of the face by Piet in his occasional magazine Furore.

nina's picture

Wow, great stuff – thanks.
The "ff" ligature is… funky indeed! I also really like the numerals.
Whatever happened to that digitization that isn't available any more – legal issues?

Micha Mirck's picture

This is the ligature, and it was used in Lay-in, Lay-out, by Piet Schreuders.

I wonder if anyone can guess the font used on the cover of that book.

JeffPeppers's picture

let's not forget:

bleh, all caps? really?

maybe you can ween yourself off with
and then move on to clarendon?

gregruffa's picture

Gregory Ruffa

Here is some information about that COOPER BLACK, the older type vets may know all this, but this could add a few bits to better
understand the type style.

Oswald Bruce Cooper designed the face in 1921, released by Bernhart Brothers & Spindler of Chicago in 1922. The style began to appear everywhere, Oz Cooper attempted to patent the design and failed because it resembled a design in a logo. The type face
remained prominent as late as the 1970s.

The rest of you can take it from there. Have Fun!!!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I wonder if anyone can guess the font used on the cover of that book.

Woah! Was there a Cooper Black Handtooled??? Or was the cover title a custom job?

Kellie Strøm's picture

Cooper Hilite from The Book of Oz Cooper.

George Thomas's picture

The Font Company had a version of Cooper Oldstyle which had four weights (L-M-D-B) with the original design for the italics. If I remember correctly, Precision Type bought the Font Company library, but they are also out of business. If you can find a Precision Type reseller they may still be able to sell you the original Cooper Oldstyle from The Font Company.

Also, I must comment that I still cannot understand why many designers do not like Souvenir. Although I don't use it that often, I do find uses for it occasionally.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Thanks for that image of Cooper Hilite, Kellie... Beautiful sample.

nepenthe's picture

For some reason, Cooper Black was used on the cover of this philosophy book I have on my shelf:

A stark contrast from what one usually sees!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture


That cover is part of Continuum's "Impacts" series... a treasure trove for the Cooper Black-loving typophile.

scottsullivan's picture

oh yeah! I forgot, I have the Fromm book from that series!! yesssssss

- Scott

scottsullivan's picture

- Scott

David Rault's picture

For anyone interested, and to continue Greg Ruffa's post, here is a somewhat more detailed background info about the typeface and Oz Cooper:

Oswald "Oz" Bruce Cooper was born on april 13th, 1879 in Mount Gilead, in Ohio - USA. At 15 he moves to Chicago and decides to become an illustrator; to do so, he enters the Frank Holme school where he will become friends with another student, William A. Dwiggins, and also with his handlettering teacher, Frederic W. Goudy. After a few weeks Oz Cooper understands he's far better in lettering than drawing, and he actually becomes lettering teacher himself in that very school for 2 years before the school closes, out of money.

He then associates with an illustrator, Fred S. Bertsch, and together they create the advertising agency Bertsch & Cooper in Chicago in Chicago in 1904. Thay both travel in Europe in 1912 and they discover many things there including the curvy and organic Art Nouveau, which will have a strong influence on their work. In 1913, Oz Cooper draws an alphabet to use it in an ad for the engine company Packard, and soon after sells this typeface through ATF; in 1914, the Bertsch & Cooper agency, which is very successful and has 50 employees, officially adds "typeface design" to its range of services.

Oz Cooper, at this time, is used to write his own lettering at the time, on his correspondance notes and business cards: a roman alphabet very bold with rounded serif, influenced by what he discovered in England and France. He understand its commercial possibilities and makes it a typeface in 1921, naming it Cooper Black. The typeface is distributed by Barnhart Brothers & Spindler in 1922 and bought by Schriftguss AG in Dresde (Germany) in 1924, who will add an italic. The same year, Oz Cooper sells his shares of Bertsch & Cooper and begins to work freelance.

The advertising, which is growing every year in the newspapers, gets a grip on Cooper Black and uses it extensively, because of its very strong personnality and the way it stands out of a page; therefore, very quickly, every founder in town releases its own version of Cooper Black: Bitstream Cooper, Ludlow Black, Burlesque, Plymouth, and even Goudy Heavyface, made by Frederic Goudy, the teacher and friend of Oz Cooper, who is bitterly disappointed. Cooper tries to register his design, but the National Commission rejects his request; he contests the decision and wins the case in 1930, but the commission fights back in 1931 and declares that Cooper Black is too close to the typeface used in the logo of the construction company Asbestone. Oz Cooper gives up, tired and sick. He will work a little more (he will for example create the new graphic standards of the Chicago Daily News), before dying from cancer on december 17th 1940, aged 61. Sinbce then, all his drawings and sketches are at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

In the following years, Oz Cooper is not here anymore to promote Cooper Black, which falls into oblivion while Futura, Kabel and the others geometric designs are reaching stardom and domination. In 1966, the graphic designer Tommy Steele is working on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album cover, and finds Cooper Black in an old book; the typeface's curves and flower-like joy fits perfectly with the summer of love to come, and he decides to use it. The album is a hit smash, and instantly, Cooper Black becomes the 8th wonder, first on pop rock disc covers, then everywhere, becoming one of the visual reference of the era and its ideology. Everyone wants it: Frank Zappa, The Doors, Robert Crumb, Garfield, Dr Pepper, Burger King, Payless Shoesource, Quality Inn... It becomes available on precut stickers, multiplies on cheap shops, and at the beginning of 1980, turns into a cheapo, ugly type that nobody wants to use anymore; in 1990-1995, it hits rock bottom, and is the universal synonym of cheapness (Easyjet understands it very well).

It's only at the beginnig of 2000 that talented graphic designers and typographers will bring it back from the grave and use it in inspired designs, but it's still uneasy because of his very heavy burden, and requires a large amount of skill and sensibility. Some new designs inspired by Oz Cooper early sketches also appeared in the last 10 years, including Rosemary by Chank Diesel.

And that's all folks, more or less faithfully translated from my own book.


rcc's picture

Used to be all but smitten by Cooper Black, but weened myself off, ever so gradually. Still reach for Motter Corpus now and again, too. Am trying hard to reform. ;)

@DavidR: Love that eye candy. Thanks.

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