Monotype Grotesque










FONT FAMILY



Monotype Grotesque is a realist sans serif typeface designed by Frank Hinman Pierpont (1860-1937) and released by the Monotype foundry in 1926.

Pierpont based his design for Monotype Grotesque on Ideal, an earlier more idiosyncratic sans serif by the H. Berthold AG foundry and William Thorowogoods 1832 face titled Grotesque. Uppercase characters are of near equal width, the G has a spur in some weights, and the M in the non condensed weights is square. The lowercase characters a, e, g, and t follow the model of twentieth century English romans. Monotype Grotesque is a large extended typeface family with multiple widths from condensed to extended.



DIGITAL FONT VERSION

















12 Alternate characters for Monotype Grotesque (1961)













HISTORY



Monotype Grotesque has been known as Grotesque 215 during its early release. Unlike Helvetica and other Grotesque sans serif fonts, Monotype Grotesque capitals do not contain some bookish features such as spurs. But it is light in color, making it suitable for setting as book text. Many of it heavier weights, such as bold and black, read well in display settings. Digital version of Monotype Grotesque called MT Grotesque. The Monotype Grotesque design was originally based upon sans-serif design by the H Berthold AG foundry and William Thorogoods original Grotesque typeface. The name grotesque has a slightly hazy origin, some believed that typesetters who came across the original sans serif typeface of William Thorogood nicknamed it Grotesque because they considered it an ugly typeface. In those days, printers had only used sans serif fonts in upper case and as headlines/large print. The introduction of the lower case grotesque character set was a new direction in typeface design.

It was developed at a time when the development of printing machinery had been accelerated by the industrial revolution. New ways of manufacturing and working metals made it possible for engineers to design some very impressive and complex machines capable of high speed print. Newspaper circulation was high and despite the 1st World war making resources scarce, the swinging twenties saw high demand for high quality print, particularly in the rapidly growing leisure market where advertising was also becoming more common. Monotype Grotesque was introduced to address the need for a typeface with an Avant Garde appearance to fit in with the design concepts of the day.

Although it never reached the heights of popularity that Akzidenz Grotesk has over the years, Monotype Grotesque has been used by many and is surprisingly good screen font as some of the extended and condensed versions are is legible in lower point sizes and overall it has excellent readability characteristics.



ARTICLE: BLUE PENCIL NO.18 - ARIAL ADDENDUM NO.3


The Arial thread that I began a few weeks ago keeps attracting comment. Indra Kupferschmid, the German typographer, has sent me a series of emails full of some provocative questions about Monotype Grotesque. I have taken the liberty (with Indras approval) of quoting the most pertinent parts of her emails. I am also posting her supporting images. Indra writes, I never heard of a New Grotesque [from Monotype] from 1956. Why would they stop developing it when every single foundry in Europe brought out Neo grotesque typefaces in the following years? I think that Indras question is a good one, but that it is backward. The question should be: why would Monotype have considered revising its successful Monotype Grotesque in 1956 in the first place? What were they responding to? What makes me a little skeptical, Indra continues, are the adaptions that were made to Monotype Grotesque 215 in 1961. Twelve new characters became more Helvetica like. (But, making it even less Arial-ish.)

It does not seem surprising to me that Monotype retrofitted Monotype Grotesque 215 with Helvetica like alternate characters following the success of Helvetica. The company had done a similar thing before with Gill Sans, creating Futura like alternate characters for the German and Swiss markets. P.M. Handover, in Monotype News Letter 69 (March 1963), wrote, German protocol in sans serif typography allows a variety of faces. Monotype Grotesque 215 is liked because of its relative weight and the Gill Sans Serif, of which certain letters have recently been recut for the German market, is often seen. In Britain the advertising agencies, long loyal to Gill, are swinging in favour of series 215, influenced by Swiss advocacy of this design. (Grotesque Letters: A history of unseriffed type faces from 1816 to the present day.

It is also worth noting, says Indra, that Haas always said that the huge success [spread] of Akzidenz Grotesk in hand set and Monotype Grotesque for machine composition was one reason to start the endeavor that became Neue Haas Grotesk. Monotype was really big in Switzerland, way more than Linotype. The deal with the latter [German Linotype for Helvetica] was made because the Monotype market seemed to be more or less taken by Monotype Grotesque and Linotype was the only real alternative. Plus, Linotype was really big in Germany and in newspapers. And it was big in the United States.

Indra is also interested in Monotype s claim that, The new Ideal Grotesque design is a composite of the Monotype Grotesques, Bertholds Ideal Grotesk and Venus. The three faces are closely related, making it a natural to bring them together into one well integrated typeface family. As part of the process, [Rod] McDonald is adjusting the weight of the caps to bring them into better harmony with the lower case. All characters will also be re proportioned to some degree, and new weights will be added to the originals. On Ideal Grotesk and Venus she says there were two different typefaces named Ideal, the first issued by Otto Weisert in 1905 (featured on p. 313 of the 1907 Klimsch Jahrbuch) and a second one that is identical to Venus, issued by Bauersche Giesserei in 1907. The latter was a me too face from Klinkhardt. One of Indras key sources for the background of the early 20th century sans serifs is the series of Klimschs Jahrbuchs [graphic arts yearbooks issued by Klimsch and Co., a Frankfurt photo engraving firm, from 1900 to 1939] surveying which, as she points out, claimed that they only included original typefaces and not , in her words, ones cast from bought matrices or galvano-copied [electrotypes]. Thus, there is no showing of Klinkhardts Ideal Grotesk (issued in 1908) in the Klimschs Jahrbuchs. Ideal Grotesk was acquired by Berthold in 1920. Klimsch Jahrbuch 1907 Weiserts Ideal Grotesk is visible five lines down on the left side. Across from it is Halbfette Venus from Bauer. (An interesting design that I was previously unaware of is Moderne Grotesk from Flinsch, three lines down on the right. Indra says that it looks similar to Breite (halbfette) Grotesk by Schelter and Giesecke, 1890.)

Seemans Handbuch der Schriftarten (1926) detail

This showing of Venus and Klinkhardt’s Ideal Grotesk is from the 1926 edition of Seeman’s Handbuch der Schriftarten (another essential reference book for those researching 20th century German metal typefaces). Apparently Seeman had no problem showing copycat typefaces.

In discussing whether or not Arial is a clone of Helvetica it is inevitable that we have bumped against other cases of type imitation/type copying—in varying degrees of closeness—in the past. As interesting as the debate is about Arial and Helvetica, the bigger story is the general one about the often close relationships between typefaces, the same story that John Downer tried to sort out nearly a decade ago.



SOURCE TEXT: TYPOGRAPHY, REFERENCED: A COMPROHENSIVE VISUAL GUIDE TO THE LANGUAGE


SOURCE TEXT: BLUE PENCIL NO.18 - ARIAL ADDENDUM NO.3










DESIGNER



Font designer Frank Hinman Pierpont Born 1860 in New Haven, CT, died 1937 in London. Trained as a mechanic. By 1894, he was working for Loewe AG in Berlin, where the Typograph typesetting machine was designed. He was director of the Typograph typesetting machine factory from 1896. He moved to England in 1899 and became foundry manager at Monotype.

Pierpont based his design for Monotype Grotesque on Ideal, an earlier more idiosyncratic sans serif by the H. Berthold AG foundry and William Thorowogoods 1832 face titled Grotesque. Uppercase characters are of near equal width, the G has a spur in some weights, and the M in the non condensed weights is square. The lowercase characters a, e, g, and t follow the model of twentieth century English romans. Monotype Grotesque is a large extended typeface family with multiple widths from condensed to extended.

I can see nothing in this design to recommend it and much that is objectionable Frank Pierponts first impressions of Gills drawings of Gill Sans, in a letter to fellow Monotype manager William Burch, 1927

Connecticut engineer who moved to London, and headed the Monotype Corporation matrix factory and drawing office from early in the century until 1936, responsible for the level of quality in Monotype Corporation typefaces of the time.

Other famous letter types Pierpont designed include, Rockwell and Platin.



MORE ABOUT: F.H.PIERPONT









UNIQUE TO THE FONT



Pierpont based his design for Monotype Grotesque on Ideal, an earlier more idiosyncratic sans serif by the H. Berthold AG foundry and William Thorowogoods 1832 face titled Grotesque. Uppercase characters are of near equal width, the G has a spur in some weights, and the M in the non-condensed weights is square. The lowercase characters a, e, g, and t follow the model of twentieth century English romans. Monotype Grotesque is a large extended typeface family with multiple widths from condensed to extended.

Monotype Grotesque was one of the earliest sans serif typefaces to be cut for hot-metal machine typesetting and so became a favorite for a number of typesetters and page designers. This new method of printing gave publishers a new way to reduce the cost of the typefaces which wore out quickly on high speed printing presses of the day. The solution was to have the fonts available as new when each print run was typeset. A printing machinery developer of the day came up with the idea of casting the typefaces in a molten lead/tin alloy, meant that a usable font with clear outlines and strokes could be printed every time. This prevented their printed newspapers from starting to look a bit fuzzy as the old style of liquid tin/antimony forged type would tend to do after being used a few times.

Hot metal typesetting, although a very popular way to produce high speed quality printing, was a dangerous process with a crucible of molten lead filling the font molds under pressure, there was scope for all sorts of injuries and there were many. The resulting typefaces were all monospaced due to the mold shapes they used.



SOURCE IMAGE: GROTESQUE MT, BY BRIANNA DALLAS

SOURCE TEXT: MONOTYPE GROTESQUE






HOT METAL TYPESETTING



The time and effort required to manually compose the text led to several efforts in the 19th century to produce mechanical typesetting. While some, such as the Paige compositor, met with limited success, by the end of the 19th century, several methods had been devised whereby an operator working a keyboard or other devices could produce the desired text. Most of the successful systems involved the inhouse casting of the type to be used, hence are termed, hot metal typesetting. The Linotype machine, invented in 1884, used a keyboard to assemble the casting matrices, and cast an entire line of type at a time (hence its name). In the Monotype System, a keyboard was used to punch a paper tape, which was then fed to control a casting machine. The Ludlow Typograph involved handset matrices, but otherwise used hot metal. By the early 20th century, the various systems were nearly universal in large newspapers and publishing houses.

The Monotype System took a different direction in hot metal typesetting, with the ability of the Composition Caster to cast loose type using a paper tape operated automatic casting machine. The paper tape would be first generated on a keyboard and then used to cast the type, the tape could be stored for future casting for subsequent editions. This was a popular system for book work. Text was produced completely aligned, with all spaces in each line exactly the same width. Corrections and complex work could be done on the text by hand after the bulk of the text had been set by machine. The Super Caster and Orphan Annie were used to cast fonts of loose type for hand setting as well as spacing material and patterned rules.

This type was most times made of an alloy (8-10% Tin, 15-20% Antimony) slightly harder than the line casting alloys but was not as hard as the foundry type used for hand setting of loose letters. This allowed reasonable print runs or conversion to stereotypes for longer print runs. But these machines could produce type with all possible alloys, when needed.

The used type, like the slugs from line casters, was remelted when no longer needed. Each time remelting caused some loss of Tin, through oxidation. This loss needed to be monitored and compensated. The Monotype Corporation survived the demise of the hot metal typesetting era by selling digital type.



SOURCE IMAGES: MAGNETSTUDIO








USAGE



In the early 20th century Monotype Grotesque fonts were commonly used in newspapers and large print up to 72 point. In more recent times it has been used on a number of album covers and is suitable for use on computer displays as it has simple clean lines and is easy to read even at small point sizes.

Its best-known application is probably in Herbert Spencers experimental journal Typographica. After several layout revisions, beginning with more old fashioned justified Walbaum and Bembo before moving on to MT Grotesque for titles, Spencer finally set the whole journal in the unjustified grot, saying [only by the third issue of Typographicas new series was I] in a strong enough position and I had a sufficiently large following [to introduce unjustified setting].

Monotype, the company who released Monotype Grotesque, took the design even further by automating the typesetting process to make it quicker (and safer) to load up the press with the content to be printed. This greatly speeded up the typesetting process further adding to the volume of publishing that the printing industry was able to produce. The resulting print was more regular and lined properly. The process was efficient too although some tin was oxidized in the process, most of the metal used could be melted down and used again for the next edition.

Monotype Grotesque was released by the Monotype Corporation specifically for this machine and it became widely used as a result, although restricted to presses using Monotype machines. Fonts such as Gill Sans were very similar and gained more popularity because of other machinery of the day and possibly the range of typefaces was wider too making it a more popular choice. Modern digitization has changed all that as all the older font families are now digitized and versions published by many foundries. The Monotype Grotesque family remains a relatively small font family so its characteristics are easy to see in the 12 available weights and styles.



MORE EXAMPLES OF THE FONT USAGE





NEW TYPES



The new Ideal Grotesque design is a composite of the Monotype Grotesques, Bertholds Ideal Grotesk and Venus. The three faces are closely related, making it a natural to bring them together into one well integrated typeface family. As part of the process, Rod McDonald is adjusting the weight of the caps to bring them into better harmony with the lower case. All characters will also be reproportioned to some degree, and new weights will be added to the originals.

Arial is designed based on Monotype Grotesque.The letter shapes of Arial are based on Monotype Grotesque. Subtle changes and variations were made to both the letterforms and the spacing between characters in order to make it more readable at various resolution.

The newest member of the Monotype collection available from Fonts.com, Classic Grotesque was inspired largely by the Monotype Grotesque design released in 1926 additionally borrowing from two other period influences, Venus and Ideal Grotesk. The result is a strong, versatile performer that features seven weights, each with a complementary italic. This modern version of a typeface based on influences from another era will work equally well in ads, books and even on the small screen.



MORE ABOUT: CLASSIC GROTESQUE


MORE ABOUT: CLASSIC GROTESQUE


MORE ABOUT: ARIAL


































































































































































































































































STORY ABOUT ARIAL



ARTICLE: HOW TO SPOT ARIAL


Many of the characters in Helvetica and Arial are very similar to each other, although none are quite identical. Other characters are quite a bit different, and they are the key to telling which is which. Here are some of the most obvious ones (Grotesque 215, Arials ancestor, has also been included for comparison):

The a in Helvetica has a tail, Arial does not. Also, the bowl of the a flows into the stem like a backwards s, the bowl of Arials a simply intersects the stem with a slight curve. (Interestingly, the Grotesque a has a tail, just like Helvetica. The bolder weights of Helvetica have no tails, an inconsistency that bothers some people. Maybe it bothered Monotype, too.) Arials a has always seemed a little badly drawn to me, but maybe it is just me.

The top of the Arial t is cut off at an angle, the Helvetica t is cut off straight. You can see clearly here how the x height of Arial matches Helveticas. This is one of the main things that makes Arial look like Helvetica at first glance, even though the details are different.

The ends of the strokes of letters like S and C are perfectly horizontal in Helvetica, in Arial and Grotesque they are cut off at a slight angle.

The G in Helvetica has a spur at the bottom of the stem on the right side and the curve at the bottom of the G flows into the stem, in Arial and Grotesque the G has no spur and the curve at the bottom meets the stem at an angle.

The tail of the R in Helvetica flows out from the bowl and curves straight down, ending in a slight curve to the right. In Arial, the tail flows down and to the right from near the center of the horizontal bar and straightens out at an angle to the end. It appears to be a compromise between the Helvetica R and the Grotesque R. This feature is very unusual for a grotesque design, and is more typical of humanist sans serifs. It feels out of place here and is one of the more awkward design features of Arial.

In both fonts, the characteristics described here apply to all weights (except, of course, the tail on the Helvetica a, which is dropped on the bolder weights)



ARTICLE: THE SCOURGE OF ARIAL


Arial is everywhere. If you do not know what it is, you do not use a modern personal computer. Arial is a font that is familiar to anyone who uses Microsoft products, whether on a PC or a Mac. It has spread like a virus through the typographic landscape and illustrates the pervasiveness of Microsofts influence in the world.

Arials ubiquity is not due to its beauty. It is 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.

Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, one of the most popular typefaces in the western world was Helvetica. It was developed by the Haas Foundry of Switzerland in the 1950s. Later, Haas merged with Linotype and Helvetica was heavily promoted. More weights were added and it really began to catch on.

An icon of the Swiss school of typography, Helvetica swept through the design world in the 60s and became synonymous with modern, progressive, cosmopolitan attitudes. With its friendly, cheerful appearance and clean lines, it was universally embraced for a time by both the corporate and design worlds as a nearly perfect typeface to be used for anything and everything. When in doubt, use Helvetica was a common rule.

As it spread into the mainstream in the 70s, many designers tired of it and moved on to other typographic fashions, but by then it had become a staple of everyday design and printing. So in the early 80s when Adobe developed the PostScript page description language, it was no surprise that they chose Helvetica as one of the basic four fonts to be included with every PostScript interpreter they licensed (along with Times, Courier, and Symbol). Adobe licensed its fonts from the original foundries, demonstrating their respect and appreciation for the integrity of type, type foundries and designers. They perhaps realized that if they had used knock offs of popular typefaces, the professional graphic arts industry a key market would not accept them.

By the late eighties, the desktop publishing phenomenon was in full swing. Led by the Macintosh and programs like PageMaker, and made possible by Adobes PostScript page description language, anyone could do near professional quality typesetting on relatively inexpensive personal computers.

But there was a problem. There were two kinds of PostScript fonts: Type 1 and Type 3. Type 1 fonts included hints that improved the quality of output dramatically over Type 3 fonts. Adobe provided information on making Type 3 fonts, but kept the secrets of the superior Type 1 font technology to itself. If you wanted Type 1 fonts, Adobe was the only source. Anyone else who wanted to make or sell fonts had to settle for the inferior Type 3 format. Adobe wanted the high end of the market all to itself.

By 1989, a number of companies were hard at work trying to crack the Type 1 format or devise alternatives. Apple and Microsoft signed a cross licensing agreement to create an alternative to Adobes technology. While Microsoft worked on TrueImage, a page description language, Apple developed the TrueType format. TrueType was a more open format and was compatible with but not dependent on PostScript. This effectively forced Adobes hand, causing them to release the secrets of the Type 1 format to save themselves from irrelevancy.

Around the same time, PostScript clones were being developed to compete with Adobe. These PostScript work alikes were usually bundled with look alike fonts, since the originals were owned by Adobes business partners. One PostScript clone, sold by Birmy, featured a Helvetica substitute developed by Monotype called Arial.

Arial appears to be a loose adaptation of Monotypes venerable Grotesque series, redrawn to match the proportions and weight of Helvetica. At a glance, it looks like Helvetica, but up close it is different in dozens of seemingly arbitrary ways. Because it matched Helveticas proportions, it was possible to automatically substitute Arial when Helvetica was specified in a document printed on a PostScript clone output device. To the untrained eye, the difference was hard to spot. (See How to Spot Arial) After all, most people would have trouble telling the difference between a serif and a sans serif typeface. But to an experienced designer, it was like asking for Jimmy Stewart and getting Rich Little.

What is really strange about Arial is that it appears that Monotype was uncomfortable about doing a direct copy of Helvetica. They could very easily have done that and gotten away with it. Many type manufacturers in the past have done knockoffs of Helvetica that were indistinguishable or nearly so. For better or worse, in many countries particularly the U.S. while typeface names can be protected legally, typeface designs themselves are difficult to protect. So, if you wanted to buy a typesetting machine and wanted the real Helvetica, you had to buy Linotype. If you opted to purchase Compugraphic, AM, or Alphatype typesetting equipment, you could not get Helvetica. Instead you got Triumvirate, or Helios, or Megaron, or Newton, or whatever. Every typesetting manufacturer had its own Helvetica look alike. It has quite possible that most of the Helvetica seen in the 70s was actually not Helvetica.

Now, Monotype was a respected type foundry with a glorious past and perhaps the idea of being associated with these pirates was unacceptable. So, instead, they found a loophole and devised an original design that just happens to share exactly the same proportions and weight as another typeface. (See Monotypes Other Arials) This, to my mind, is almost worse than an outright copy. A copy, it could be said, pays homage (if not license fees) to the original by its very existence. Arial, on the other hand, pretends to be different. It says, in effect I am not Helvetica. I dont even look like Helvetica!, but gladly steps into the same shoes. In fact, it has no other role.

When Microsoft made TrueType the standard font format for Windows 3.1, they opted to go with Arial rather than Helvetica, probably because it was cheaper and they knew most people would not know (or even care about) the difference. Apple also standardized on TrueType at the same time, but went with Helvetica, not Arial, and paid Linotype is license fee. Of course, Windows 3.1 was a big hit. Thus, Arial is now everywhere, a side effect of Windows success, born out of the desire to avoid paying license fees.

The situation today is that Arial has displaced Helvetica as the standard font in practically everything done by nonprofessionals in print, on television, and on the Web, where it has become a standard font, mostly because of Microsoft bundling it with everything even for Macs, which already come with Helvetica. This is not such a big deal since at the low resolution of a computer screen, it might as well be Helvetica. In any case, for fonts on the Web, Arial is one of the few choices available.

Despite its pervasiveness, a professional designer would rarely at least for the moment specify Arial. To professional designers, Arial is looked down on as a not-very faithful imitation of a typeface that is no longer fashionable. It has what you might call a low-end stigma. The few cases that I have heard of where a designer has intentionally used Arial were because the client insisted on it. Why? The client wanted to be able to produce materials in-house that matched their corporate look and they already had Arial, because it’s included with Windows. True to its heritage, Arial gets chosen because it’s cheap, not because it’s a great typeface.

It has been a very long time since I was actually a fan of Helvetica, but the fact is Helvetica became popular on its own merits. Arial owes its very existence to that success but is little more than a parasite and it looks like it’s the kind that eventually destroys the host. I can almost hear young designers now saying, Helvetica? That is that font that looks kinda like Arial, right?



ARTICLE: SOME HISTORY ABOUT ARIAL


I have moved the third portion of Matthew Carter’s email to me regarding Just My Type (see Blue Pencil no. 17—Correction) to a separate post since it was not a correction but a further elucidation of a comment I made. And I have paired it with Rod McDonald’s follow-up email (formerly Blue Pencil no. 17—Addendum).

Matthew Carter: Somewhere there must be a proper account of the beginnings of Arial, but at the risk of repeating myself or somebody else, here goes. In the late 70s or 1980 (I am not sure of the exact date) Xerox and IBM released the first laser-xerographic printers, the Xerox 9700 (300 dpi resolution), and the IBM 3800 (240 dpi resolution). Xerox made an agreement with Mergenthaler to license bitmaps of Times Roman and Helvetica for the 9700. IBM went to Monotype (the only real alternative to Linotype) to license the same faces (in addition to versions of the monospaced fonts they had used in the previous generation of impact printers). Monotype had rights to Times Roman, of course, but not to Helvetica. The contract with IBM was worth a colossal amount of money and Monotype, in one of their periodic financial difficulties, proposed to make what amounted to a Helvetica clone, based ostensibly on their Grots 215 and 216. I was a consultant to IBMs Printer Planning Division at the time and had the job of going through printouts of all the Monotype bitmaps to make necessary corrections with red and green pencils. Arial was originally called Sonoran Sans during its development but I believe that IBM used the name Arial by the time it was released.

At a later time Microsoft acquired the rights of access to Monotypes type library. This was in return for guaranteeing a loan to Monotype (again in financial trouble), a deal brokered by Robert Norton at Microsoft. Through this deal Microsoft picked up Arial. One point I am not clear about—but should be given my job as consultant—is whether IBMs Sonoran/Arial had exactly the same set widths as Helvetica or whether that was a refinement introduced by Microsoft.

A footnote. Xeroxs choice of Times and Helvetica as the indispensable pair of typographic fonts to replace the typewriter-like impact printer fonts may have had further repercussions. Warnock and Geschke worked at Xerox Parc before founding Adobe. The inclusion of Times and Helvetica as the primary PostScript fonts to replace the typewriter may simply have been suggested by the Xerox/Mergenthaler deal.

Matthews account of the origins of Arial seems to fit with that found on Wikipedia, though he is hazy on the exact year (Wikipedia says 1982). Matthew says Monotype did not have rights to Helvetica, but Wikipedia says it had sublicensed the face from Linotype. This is supported by Lawrence W. Wallis chronology of the Monotype Corporation which says that Helvetica was made available on Monotype machines in 1972.

Wallis chronology, which was originally published as part of One Hundred Years of Type Making 1897–1997, a special centenary issue of The Monotype Recorder (New Series No. 10, 1997) under the title Monotype Time Check (pp. 46–55). The chronology does not mention Arial or Sonoran Sans. But Arial is briefly, and a bit coyly, discussed in two other contributions to the centenary issue. David Saunders, in Two decades of change 1965–1986 (pp. 26–35), writes, It was apparent to both Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, another staff designer trained in the Monotype TDO [Type Drawing Office], that a more humanist approach to type was developing in the 80s, and they incorporated this into their design. The result is a typeface [Arial] that is more rounded than its rival, Helvetica. He dates Arial, a somewhat impersonal sans serif, to 1982 but says nothing about IBM or Microsoft. The differences between Arial and Helvetica are then enumerated—with an emphasis on the bowed leg of the R as being closer to Gill Sans than to either Helvetica or earlier grotesques such as Monotype Grotesque 215.

In New technology, new developments: 1986–1997 (pp. 36–45), Andrew Boag writes, Following the supply of the 13 core fonts for Microsofts Windows 3.1 software. Microsoft commissioned a further set of 22 fonts to make up a plus set, intended to provide Windows users with a set of fonts suitable for a range of document production tasks. This project called for both new designs, and modifications to existing designs. The designs that he lists are Century Gothic, Bookman Old Style and Corsiva. He says that René Kerfante saw potential at some unspecfied date prior to its contract with Microsoft for Monotype to provide core fonts in which the original Times New Roman design is matched to the widths of core-font versions of Times. Boag continues, Arials widths were also matched. Constraints on space in the ROMS of early desktop printers had resulted in the ugly electronically condensed core versions of Helvetica (Helvetica Narrow): Kerfante developed properly drawn Arial Narrow variants with compatible widths.

This story does not appear on the Monotype Imaging website. The only place where the origins of Arial are touched upon is in the biography of Robin Nicholas: In 1982, Nicholas drew a contemporary sans serif typeface for low resolution output devices this design would eventually evolve into the Arial typeface family. He worked with Monotypes Patricia Saunders to shape the Arial design into a full family. Microsoft later selected the Arial design as a core font for the Windows 3.1 operating system. Nicholas and his Monotype colleagues have further expanded the Arial family over the years. As one of the standard fonts in the Windows operating system, the Arial design is one of the most used typeface families in the world. There is also a reproduction of a drawing of the Arial a dated August 20, 1987. There, the site expands a little on this story (without mentioning Sonoran Sans), Arial started out as a bitmap font designed for IBM in the early 1980s. The typeface was redrawn a few years later to capitalize on the popularity of PC-based desktop publishing. Arials forms were based in part on Monotype Grotesque [215] and then molded into the industrial sans serif that is so visible today.

For more on Arial and Helvetica see the following sites: I Love Typography, Mark Simonson Studio and Shinntype. I Love Typography compares the two typefaces visually and then concludes, What it is wrong to do is criticize Arial as a clone or ripoff of Helvetica. If Arial is a ripoff of Helvetica, then Helvetica is a ripoff of Akzidenz Grotesk, or we could simply say that they are both ripoffs of earlier Grotesque faces. The whole ripoff debate is a rather pointless one, I feel. Every face should be considered on its own merit. (We do not criticize a daughter for looking like her mother). And, if you want to criticize Arial (it certainly has its faults), then do so, not because everyone else does, but do so with your own critical eye.

The case for Arial as a clone is made by Simonson who compares it to both Helvetica and Monotype Grotesque 215. In The Scourge of Arial he speculates on the odd relationship of Arial and Helvetica: What is really strange about Arial is that it appears that Monotype was uncomfortable about doing a direct copy of Helvetica. They could very easily have done that and gotten away with it. Many type manufacturers in the past have done knockoffs of Helvetica that were indistinguishable or nearly so. For better or worse, in many countries particularly the U.S. while typeface names can be protected legally, typeface designs themselves are difficult to protect. So, if you wanted to buy a typesetting machine and wanted the real Helvetica, you had to buy Linotype. If you opted to purchase Compugraphic, AM, or Alphatype typesetting equipment, you could not get Helvetica. Instead you got Triumvirate, or Helios, or Megaron, or Newton, or whatever. Every typesetting manufacturer had its own Helvetica look alike. It is quite possible that most of the Helvetica seen in the 70s was actually not Helvetica. He continues, Now, Monotype was a respected type foundry with a glorious past and perhaps the idea of being associated with these pirates was unacceptable. So, instead, they found a loophole and devised an original design that just happens to share exactly the same proportions and weight as another typeface. (See Monotypes Other Arials) This, to my mind, is almost worse than an outright copy. A copy, it could be said, pays homage (if not license fees) to the original by its very existence. Arial, on the other hand, pretends to be different. It says, in effect I am not Helvetica. I do not even look like Helvetica!, but gladly steps into the same shoes. In fact, it has no other role.

Nick Shinns diatribe is not about Arial specifically but about modernist sans serifs as a group. It is an impassioned argument for designers to use contemporary sans serif designs rather than those of the past. Today, Shinn declaims, the preferred fonts are traditional, conformist, utilitarian, boring and banal in short, a fascist aesthetic. What dupes we have become, to believe that timeless and neutral is a virtue in a typeface! It is time to retire Helvetica and its cohorts, designed long ago and far away, and once again make typography expressive of local culture, here and now. (It includes a fascinating 19th century gothic that eerily anticipates Helvetica.)

Shinn, Simonson and the others cited here provide more light on the issue of copied, pirated and cloned typefaces than that found in Garfields chapter on the subject. Yet, none of them make a clear distinction among these different terms. I would suggest that the first two are the same and apply to typefaces that look closely, if not indistinguishably, like another typeface, and that the latter applies to a typeface that shares the metrics of another typeface as well as a close appearance. This is where Matthew Carter’s question about who was responsible for the matching set widths between Arial and Helvetica comes in.

The story of Arial has been shrouded in mystery and invective. Recently, Canadian type designer Rod McDonald sent me this email as his contribution to my attempt above to clear the air.

Rod McDonald: I have mixed feelings about wading into the story of Arial, but I am just completing a major reworking of the Grotesque series for Monotype that over the last three years has daily brought me face to face with Arial. I have managed to gather a few bits and pieces of the Arial story, although I really think you should contact Robin Nicholas directly. Obviously he has source material not available to many others. I have always found Robin to be both open and candid about the various stories surrounding Arial.Arial was definitely based on the Monotype Grotesques. They of course were based on Bertholds Ideal Grotesk, which as far as Robin and I have been able to find, was in turn based on Venus (at least in the light weight). One step that is always missed is that the Drawing Office also used a face called New Grotesque that was begun in 1956 as an update of the original Grotesque series. Because of changing technologies New Grotesque was eventually shelved, but it was used as a model in the initial development of Arial.

In 1992 the TrueType version of Arial was licensed to Microsoft as one of the core fonts for use on their new Windows 3.1 OS. At that time a great deal of work was put into the development of Arial TrueType. As to the widespread notion that Microsoft did not want to pay licensing fees, Allan Haley has publicly stated, more than once, that the amount of money Microsoft paid over the years for the development of Arial could finance a small country. Matthew Carter’s point about the periodic financial woes of Monotype certainly applies here.

In the development of the new Grotesque series for Monotype I can attest that one of the problems I faced was periodically straying too close to Arial. The design similarities between the Monotype Grotesques and Arial are that close, however, I never once found myself in danger of producing a variation on Helvetica.

I have come to see the Arial Story as a case of too many people with too little knowledge running with a story they imagine has greater meaning than it actually has. On a personal level I find these stories even more disturbing because they often smack of political correctness, with the kind of exaggerated sense of morality that so often accompanies that line of thinking. For designers it also brings up the issue of judging a design while ignoring all the business and technological aspects that also go into producing a product. The development of Arial is as much a business and technology story as it is a design story.

 Rod makes an excellent point in his last sentence. It is high time for someone to write the definitive account of this typeface, taking into account these various entangled factors.



SOURCE TEXT: BLUE PENCIL NO.18 - ARIAL ADDENDUM NO.3


SOURCE TEXT: BLUE PENCIL NO.18 - SOME HISTORY ABOUT ARIAL


SOURCE TEXT: HOW TO SPOT ARIAL


MORE ABOUT: ARIAL


SOURCE TEXT: THE SCOURGE OF ARIAL

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