Font Friday

Charter (free font)

The slab-serif typeface Charter shown on a mobile phone in a headline, body text, and a pull quote.

Slab Serif typeface

by Matthew Carter, published by Bitstream

4 styles

2 weights: Regular and Bold
all with matching italics

License for web/app usage

Free

Best for

  • Headings (display text)
  • Long reading text (body text)
  • User Interfaces (functional text)

Specialty

A gem, preinstalled on your Mac or iPhone, but probably unseen. Treasure, what you have!

My thoughts on Charter

I want to start a new year of Font Friday recommendations by honoring a typeface that is not the new hot shit. It actually is pretty old for digital typefaces, but one of my absolute favorites. The slab serif Charter was designed in 1987 by Matthew Cater for the Bitstream foundry. If you don’t know Sir Matthew Carter, you definitely should get familiar with him! This man is a legend, and also the one behind super popular Verdana, Georgia, Tahoma, and many more.

This is Charter. With a simplified structure, it uses more straight lines, and fewer curves. It  comes across very open and elegant with its reduced contrast. This is Georgia. It has more curves, the serifs are more articulated, and the contrast is increased. It is also slightly larger at the same font size and a bit wider.
Compared to Georgia, Charter is more compact, simpler and more elegant.

Charter was optimized for printing on the low-resolution 300 dpi laser printers of the 1980s. This makes it ideal for nowadays screens, standard office desktop monitors with lower pixel density included. It is well suited for long reading text and headlines. For small functional text, it’s too thin.

After designing Charter, Matthew Carter moved on to make Georgia, which is similar, but creates a very different vibe. When you take a close look, Georgia appears wider and larger, because it was optimized for smaller sizes and low resolution screens back in 1993.

Comparing the serifs of Charter and Georgia.
See how Charter uses more straight lines and less contrast in the details. Like the wedged serifs (e.g. on the r), and the cut ball terminals at the f and c.

Given its incredible quality, I think Charter is among the best free fonts out there and still not overused. On macOS and iOS, the fonts are already installed. If you need web font files, get them here from Matthew Butterick’s brilliant website. Henk pointed out, that the character set is rather limited in this free version. So if you’re in need of more characters (like the € symbol), you should either have a Mac with an extended version of Charter, or purchase the OpenType font family here.


What do you think? Is Charter something for an upcoming project, or have you used it in the past? Tell me in the comments below!

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11 Comments

  1. Thank you for introducing the Charter.🔦💎 I can’t believe I’m only meeting it now! It looks like a more masculine type, with characteristic robustness at r and k. Your sharp eye highlights everything!
    Also didn’t know it’s the same author of reputable Verdana, Georgia, and Tahoma. But also Sitka, do you know Sitka Display!? Oh, It’s a very gentle type. And even Miller (Display) a fashion lover? Wow!
    Charter is a well-grounded, serious type with an attitude that silently sells value. This is for news publications and informative magazines.

  2. Hi Oliver,

    Happy New Year!

    This is a matter of taste, but for me Charter is a very pleasant typeface to look at.

    Unfortunately the character set is rather limited. For example, and most important, the Euro character (usually code point U+20AC) is missing. Interesting enough, the character we used in the past for the Dutch currency guilder is present; U+0192.

    By the way, this does not apply to the Charter character set on MacOS; this contains many more characters (1833 instead of 228) including, of course, the Euro character.

    Best regards and thanks, once again, for pointing out to us the topography gems you encounter!

    Henk

  3. Great, I knew Charter before and did not know there is a free license. I only knew the commercial ITC-version. Thanks for this hint!

  4. I really like this one. I’m always looking for nice serifs for readable body copy, and there is an elegance to this one that I really enjoy–thank you!

  5. Got here from the email about “West”. 😱
    Going *further* West now for my comment… see you soon.

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