Lossless Toronto: Leslie Usherwood Typsettera
Having studied at the Beckenham School of Arts (which closed in 1962 and subsequently was burned down by vandals in 1978), Leslie “Les” Usherwood (1932 – 1983) had mastered the arts of both hand-painted signs and letter setting before coming to Canada from England. In his short life, he would go on to be Canada’s most well known, if not our most prolific, type designer.
Soon after immigrating to Toronto in 1957, Les discovered he could use photo-type and Letraset Instant Lettering — burgeoning techniques at the time — to create one-of-a-kind and exclusive alphabets for advertisers. In 1968, after working for various firms around Toronto, Usherwood founded his own company: Typsettera. Usherwood’s distinct and detailed “jigsaw” layout typography soon had him in high demand.
Over the course of his career, Usherwood would create over 200 fonts. He is, perhaps, best known for the calligraphic font “Caxton,” with its large x-height and short bracketed serifs. This typeface gets its name from England’s first printer, William Caxton. Though inspired by the past, when it was created “Caxton” was praised for its bold informality and ease of use in the digital world.
This 1979 Toronto Star advertising spread gives a detailed account of the history of Cabbagetown and proclaims it’s importance to the city (a shame this scan is too poor to read it without some serious squinting – to the microfiche!). Here, and as with this MasterCard ad from the same year, a Typsettera font is used under the art direction of Toronto design firm Vickers & Benson Ltd.
In 1983 at the height of his career, Les died from a heart attack at the age of 51. He had been working on a font for ITC called “Saxony.” In his memory, ITC renamed this typeface “Usherwood.” In that same year, the Advertising & Design Club of Canada posthumously awarded Les the first of what is now known as the Les Usherwood Annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since his death Steve Jackaman’s Red Rooster Typefounders have revamped a number of Usherwood and Typsettera’s faces.