Chicago: the Typeface (2024)

Decades before the sleek MacBook Air I write this on even existed, Apple introduced its original Macintosh personal computer, a woefully khaki-colored, boxy desktop machine. When you pressed its power button, its home screen would greet you with the message, “Welcome to Macintosh,” the glow of technology embracing you like a familiar friend.

Perhaps you can envision that thick, jagged, sans-serif typeface, even if you can’t identify it. It was the operating system’s first typeface, and its name was Chicago.

This was a time when people largely viewed computers as jargon-filled robots, and Apple aimed to position them as user-friendly portals to alternate universes. Designed in 1984 by Apple’s in-house graphic designer Susan Kare, the Chicago typeface was intended to boost screen readability. Not only was it inextricably linked with Apple’s brand identity in its early years, but it was also groundbreaking in the world of digital typography.

When Kare joined the Macintosh software group in 1982, computer typefaces were primarily monospaced, meaning each character had the same width. “An ‘i’ and an ‘m’ occupied the same horizontal space, unlike typeset or handwritten letters,” Kare says. But the Macintosh, she adds, was novel in that it “allowed for proportionally spaced type, so fonts on the computer could more closely resemble traditional letterforms.” It was one of the earliest signals that Mac computers were not only for the people, but designed by them,​too.

Kare, then a relatively green graphic designer, sought to create a typeface that would amp up the Mac’s user-friendly aesthetic. “Chicago was designed specifically for use in menus and title bars,” she says. She created the characters on a prototype Mac before the first model hit the market in 1984; operating within the constraints of a low-resolution display, Chicago consisted exclusively of vertical, horizontal, and 45-degree elements — it had no round edges. It also stood apart from the standard monospaced styles of screen-based type, like Courier and Lucida Console. Notably, Chicago's dark strokes and staircase-like outlines served as a typographic premonition of Apple’s future: ahighly visible company that would be known for consistently reaching new heights.

Chicago: the Typeface (1)

But before it was known as Chicago, the typeface was christened “Elefont” — because, Kare says, “it was a heavy typeface, and the pun seemed amusing.”

The graphic designer was building up Apple’s font library with pixel-based type known as bitmap fonts, and she realized she needed to give them names that united them. She and Andy Hertzfeld, an Apple software engineer, decided to pay tribute to their home city of Philadelphia and named early fonts after stops on its commuter train route, like Ardmore, Merion, Paoli, and Rosemont, where they both attended high school.

Chicago: the Typeface (2)

But their choices didn’t totally align with Steve Jobs’ vision for his company. “Steve Jobs liked the idea of place names,” Kare says, “but was dismissive of the ones we had chosen and suggested that ‘world-class cities’ would be better.”

A ransom note-style font became known as San Francisco, and a breezy script, Los Angeles. Kare, reflecting on others, says: “I believe that I chose New York, for a Times Roman design, and Geneva for the font inspired by Helvetica.” And Elefont, ultimately, became Chicago, a designation Kare says she landed on because she found visual parallels between the heavily weighted characters and Chicago’s “bold skyline.”

Chicago: the Typeface (3)

Vital as Chicago was to Apple’s early branding, its on-screen time was finite. In 1997, Apple released Mac OS 8. In hopes of improving readability for a steadily growing customer base, itreplaced Chicago with another sans-serif font:the smoother, more straightforward Charcoal.

Kare had left Apple in 1986 for Steve Jobs’ new software venture NeXT (which Apple later purchased in 1997), and the company called upon type designer David Berlow for this redesign. Since both Chicago and Charcoal were intended for screen interfaces, bold design was a de facto prerequisite. But establishing a clear difference between the two was just as important.

“When I started designing Charcoal, Apple originally asked for the same weight, same height, and for all the glyphs to be the same as Chicago, too,” says Berlow, who co-founded the digital type foundry Font Bureau in 1989. “It took a few demonstrations for me to show them that that was restrictive.” The design process, he adds, involved six years of work.

Chicago: the Typeface (4)

Although Berlow was hired to alter Kare’s intentionally low-resolution font, forming his own connection to Chicago was vital to his design process. The designer studied Charcoal’s predecessor from a technical standpoint, but he also worked to genuinely understand its emotional appeal for the sake of consistency. Like Kare, he sees the typeface having evident associationswith its namesake city.“It just feels like Chicago,” he says. “Of all the fonts named after cities, I think Chicago was the most aptly named.

“Chicago is the ‘City of Broad Shoulders,’” he adds. “The font has so many characters with the same width, and as a result, certain points get wider and certain points get narrower, so you get these very broad, square shoulders.”

Those square shoulders made a statement on smaller screens as well. As a belated nod to the typeface that first trotted across early Macintoshes, Chicago was chosen as the iPod’s inaugural interface font when the first model debuted in 2001. Chicago’s ability to be highly legible on a low-resolution, grayscale screen proved important yet again; its proportionally spaced characters, which read more like book text, made it ideal for selecting albums or song titles on the go. This migration of Chicago to the handheld iPodintroduced a whole new generation to its unique utility. It proved that good design is immortal if applied properly.

Chicago: the Typeface (5)

As with Apple's computers, the typeface of its music playersalso changed; Chicago appears only on first through fourth generation iPods.Although Chicago gradually vanished from Apple products as the company's brand evolved, the nostalgia surrounding it today is evidence of its staying power. Copycat typefaces, like Giles Booth’s “Windy City”, are graphic homages to Kare’s pioneering computer font, despite its departure from desktops. A typographic star from Apple’s earliest days, Chicago — and the careful creative minds behind it — brought true distinction to the brand.

Chicago: the Typeface (2024)


What font is the Chicago style? ›

Chicago format doesn't require you to use any specific font, as long as you choose something readable. A good standard choice is 12 pt Times New Roman.

What is the history of the Chicago typeface? ›

Chicago is a sans-serif typeface designed by Susan Kare for Apple Computer. It was used in the Macintosh operating system user interface between 1984 and 1997 and was an important part of Apple's brand identity. It is also used in early versions of the iPod user interface.

What is the official font of Chicago? ›

Big Shoulders is the Municipal Typeface for the City of Chicago.

What is the chiga font? ›

Chiga is a font that stands out from the crowd. With its unique curves on every letter and clean, straight strokes, it's a modern serif font that has a distinctive and eye-catching character. This font is not only elegant and unique, but it's also easy to read, making it perfect for a wide range of projects.

What is the Chicago style format? ›

One inch margins on sides, top and bottom. Use Times or Times New Roman 12 pt font. Double-space the text of the paper. Use left-justified text, which will have a ragged right edge. Do not use fully (newspaper-style) justified text.

What font did Obama use? ›

In the Obama campaign

Gotham used by the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. Early materials for the 2008 Obama campaign used the serif Perpetua. Later, however, upon hiring John Slabyk and Scott Thomas, the campaign made the change to Gotham, and the font was used on numerous signs and posters for the campaign.

What are Chicago's colors? ›

It consists of two light blue stripes cutting across a white background to create three white stripes alternating with the blue. The middle white band, which is thicker than the top and bottom, contains four red six-pointed stars. The white and blue areas represent the city's physical geography.

How to cite Chicago style? ›

Chicago Citation Format
  1. Author's last name, first name, middle initial.
  2. Title of document (in italics).
  3. Format (letter, manuscript, pamphlet…).
  4. Publisher city: publishing company, copyright date. ...
  5. Source (From Library of Congress in normal font), Collection name with dates (in italics).

What is the Gucci font? ›

Gucci uses Granjon Roman font for the two interlocking Gs that appear on Gucci's badge. This is also the font used for the company's wordmark. The Gucci wordmark is classic, clean, and contemporary. The logotype used in the logo is a smooth serif, while the Gucci double Gs are sans serif.

What is the Y2K font called? ›

HOLANDA is a visual representation of the Y2K (2000) aesthetic featuring futuristic style, technology, and digital elements from the early 2000's. This font incorporates elements such as old computer displays, pixels, neon, and geometric shapes that are reminiscent of the technological developments of the time.

What font is Helvetica? ›

Helvetica, also known by its original name Neue Haas Grotesk, is a widely used sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann.

What is the font size and spacing for Chicago style? ›

Chicago doesn't require a specific font or font size, but recommends using something simple and readable (e.g., 12 pt. Times New Roman). Use margins of at least 1 inch on all sides of the page. The main text should be double-spaced, and each new paragraph should begin with a ½ inch indent.

What font is the Uchicago logo? ›

Adobe Garamond Pro embodies the traditional tone of the University. It is often used for headlines or accent copy.

What is the name of the Chicago Bears font? ›

London Black, designed by Dennis Ortiz-Lopez. The numbers are not the same font as the wordmark. They are used exclusively by the Chicago Bears.

Does Chicago style use in-text? ›

In-text (parenthetical citations) using the author-date style usually contain the author's name and publication year of the reference and page number. If authorship is uncertain use the title of the source followed by the date (The Chicago Manual of Style 2017, 908).

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