Canadian Typography Archives Launched

The Canadian Typography Archives opens a new chapter in how we tell our story as a country.

The Canadian Typography Archives (CTA) launches its new website, a free resource for students, professionals, and the public to learn more about the histories of type and typography in this country.

Toronto, Canada, 01.09.2023 — From the screens we tap on, the movies we clap for, the transit system we navigate or the books we cozy up with, typography is with us more than we realize. That’s why the Canadian Typography Archives is proud to launch Phase 1 on September 1, 2023. An initiative from a collective of Canadian designers, historians, educators, and volunteers, this new digital resource is the first step in helping to tell stories untold and shine a light on the essential contributions made here. For students, professionals, and those interested in our history, the website aims to create a space for learning, reference, and appreciation of type.

Canadian type designer and DesCan Fellow Rod McDonald has led Phase 1 to launch, drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of typography, from the first printing press in Halifax in 1752, up until the beginning of the digital era in 1985. Future phases will bring the stories up through the 2000s, documenting the seismic shift in communication that began with the introduction of computers and digital fonts.

The work profiled on the site will span various categories of typography including printed books, calligraphy, hand lettering, typeface design, and advertising. Significant pieces featured in Phase 1 will include early work from such well-known designers as Carl Dair (F.DesCan), Allan Fleming F.DesCan), Les Usherwood, and Irene Alexander, as well as the first commercial typefaces and alphabets created in Canada and an introduction to early printing and type in Canada from 1752-1900. Much of this work has been rarely or never before seen by the public.

Recognizing the dominant culture present in our history, Phase 1 reflects the artifacts and perspectives most readily accessible to the launch team at this time. The aim moving forward is to encourage sharing of work, stories, and perspectives that have not been acknowledged or represented and to provoke new conversations and explorations.

The public can access this new website at Future phases are planned to add French and additional language support and content.

About the Canadian Typography Archives
The Canadian Typography Archives is dedicated to documenting and preserving typographic history — from every corner and community across Canada. It is a digital archive that includes finished artifacts (projects), articles, correspondence, processes, oral histories and other materials in the form of images, first-person accounts, videos and audio recordings. The CTA definition of typography has been expanded to include related fields such as calligraphy, lettering, sign painting, letter carving and engraving. The archives are incomplete, imperfect and evolving.

You can read a fantastic interview by Andrew Herygers CDP with Rod McDonald here.