More about fonts: Helvetica 1, Arial 0

If you’re interested in fonts, and especially if you don’t like Arial but do like having your prejudices confirmed, you might enjoy a couple of articles written by typeface designer Mark Simonson. He describes Arial as:

actually rather homely. Not that homeliness is necessarily a bad thing for a typeface. With typefaces, character and history are just as important. Arial, however, has a rather dubious history and not much character. In fact, Arial is little more than a shameless impostor.

Here’s the full post: The Scourge of Arial.

In another post, How to Spot Arial, Mark compares Arial, Helvetica and Grotesque. Both posts were written in 2001, so before the film Helvetica was made. Indeed, thanks to that film his closing hypothesis

I can almost hear young designers now saying, “Helvetica? That’s that font that looks kinda like Arial, right?”

is now a bit less likely.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. How interesting…. I liked the How To Spot Arial article in particular – when you see the word “Rates” written in each, you can see the much better design of Helvetica!

    1. I know – it’s fascinating, isn’t it? And I love it when an expert explains something in their field that opens your eyes to things you just wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

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