Arial versus Helvetica

Every typeface, like every one of us, has its distinguishing features. You might be forgiven for thinking that some fonts are clones, or identical twins. However, closer inspection reveals subtle differences and nuances that simply escape casual perusal. Something that can really help to heighten our sensitivity to those differences is getting out our magnifying glasses and really taking a closer look. If you’ve forgotten to bring your magnifying glass, then don’t fear for the Fontometer is here (we’ll get to that in a moment).

Today we’re going to de-robe two popular typefaces, namely Arial and Helvetica — faces that are often confused, and often the subjects of mistaken identity. But first let me re-introduce you to these two popular faces:

Helvetica

Designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger, Helvetica’s design is based on that of Akzidenz Grotesk (1896), and classified as a Grotesque or Transitional san serif face. Originally it was called Neue Haas Grotesque; in 1960 it was revised and renamed Helvetica (Latin for Switzerland “Swiss”).

Arial

Designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype (not Microsoft), it’s classified as Neo Grotesque, was originally called Sonoran San Serif, and was designed for IBM’s bitmap font laser printers. It was first supplied with Windows 3.1 (1992) and was one of the core fonts in all subsequent versions of Windows until Vista, when to all intents and purposes, it was replaced with Calibri.

I’ve read in several places that Arial is closer in appearance to Univers than Helvetica. I don’t think so. In How to Spot Arial, the type designer Mark Simonson looks at the similarities between Arial and Grotesque 215 (one of Arial’s true ancestors); and when you consider the details — for example, the flat versus angled finials (e.g. “t”) — then Arial does appear to be more closely related to Grotesque 215; however, the one thing that does stand out is the greater variation in stroke width of Grotesque 215. Arial and Helvetica share a more consistent, even stroke width. I guess it depends on whether one is looking at the form or the appearance. What do you think?

I can hear angels singing a heavenly chorus (I was tempted to include a sound track here) as I introduce to you the all new, shining, hopefully very useful Fontometer (sorry, but I couldn’t think of a better name) to compare the glyphs from Arial and Helvetica. In the grey corner (left), we have Arial; in the red corner, Helvetica. Simply drag the Arial glyph over the Helvetica version to compare (if the excitement of this is too much for you or your suffer from a heart condition, then take a short break between glyphs). The Fontometer only seems to work properly in FireFox (future versions will work for everyone):

A number of the glyphs are almost identical, and even an expert would have difficulty telling them apart. However, there are a few that stand out as being quite different; namely “a”, “G”, “Q”, “R”, and “1”. Did you spot any other differences?

Distinguishing Arial and Helvetica

In fact if you wish to quickly differentiate any font from from another, it’s usually best to start off looking at letters like “J”, “Q” and “g”.

What it’s wrong to do is criticize Arial as a clone or rip-off of Helvetica. If Arial is a rip-off of Helvetica, then Helvetica is a rip-off of Akzidenz Grotesk; or we could simply say that they are both rip-offs of earlier Grotesque faces. The whole rip-off debate is a rather pointless one, I feel. Every face should be considered on its own merit. (We don’t 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.

Monotype Grotesque

Akzidenz Grotesk BQ

Further reading:
The Face of Uniformity. Against Helvetica.Nick Shinn;
Akzidenz Grotesk (re release dates) on Typophile. (not for the feint-hearted).
How to Spot Arial — Mark Simonson;
Monotype’s Other “Arials” — Mark Simonson;
The Scourge of Arial — Mark Simonson (excellent article);
Alternatives to Helvetica — FontShop FontFeed.

If you don’t have some of the fonts mentioned in this article, then I will create some PDF sample sheets at large point sizes, so that you can have hours of fun comparing them. By the way, if the Fontometer crashes your browser, breaks up your marriage or has your kids asking, “daddy, daddy, why don’t you play with me more?”, I cannot be held responsible.

So, what do you think of Arial and Helvetica now?

Veer fonts


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  1. You make an excellent point that ‘every face should be considered on its own merit’ but in the case of Helvetica vs Arial, you can’t ignore that fact that Arial was born of a hasty decision to avoid paying out massive licensing fees for a typeface that had grown to become the benchmark for most written communication.

    In essence, it’s a bad redraw with a few ill considered quirks thrown in to skirt around these licensing issues. In the hands of a competent and creatively minded typographer something new and of equal rival to Helvetica could have been born, instead we’ve been living with a shabby impersonation for over 2 decades now.

    Sure, put the ‘debate’ aside but don’t forget Arial’s shadey past. For other examples of companies (usually Monotype) skirting around licencing issues see Impact vs Helvetica Compressed, Akzidenz vs Standard vs AdGrotesk, the innumerable versions of Courier… the list goes on…

  2. Even before I knew anything about fonts, I disliked Arial and I liked Helvetica. I’ve never taken the time to compare them in as much detail as you have here, and I just always assumed that they were more substantially different than they really are. I guess a little difference can go a long way.

    Thanks for pointing out Calibri —- I hadn’t seen it yet. Anyone had any issues with installing ClearType fonts on non-Vista systems?

  3. …it was revised and renamed Helvetica (Latin for Switzerland).

    Whoa! Since you are concerned with typography, I assume you’re interested in precision and accuracy? ‘Helvetica’ is not the ‘Latin for Switzerland’. The formal Latin name for Switzerland is ‘Confoederatio Helvetica’—the ‘Helvetic Confederation’, which gives the official country abbreviation CH. In other words, ‘Helvetica’ is an adjective (in the feminine nominative singular, to be particularly exact) which means, if anything, ‘Swiss’. The Romans knew the people who lived in what is now Switzerland as the ‘Helvetii’, hence the etymology of the word.

    I read the same mis-information on the New York Times’ site—it was one of the first things people commented on!

    I am in fact living in Switzerland for a year at the moment (I’ve been here for a month now). Helvetica is everywhere. Sometimes it looks great, very sleek, well thought-out, and so on; at other times it looks like it’s just been slapped on there with nary a consideration.

    Richard

  4. Daryl

    @Alec:

    I’ve got the new Vista fonts on my OS X installation, Calibri included, and there seems to be no problem. I think they were very much intended for the web, and am rather undecided about them.

    Excellent article, Johno – I’ve always tended to be part of the Arial hate crowd, but I see your point about different typefaces. Can we have a follow up on perhaps the strong and weak points of Helvetica/Arial? :D

  5. Daryl@

    They did’nt came from Vista, but the office suite and indeed they are interesting. :-)

    The Fonometer works excellent in Safari i might add, but i suspect that the rest of the stylesheet is somewhat weird :-/

    Arial or Helvetica, I have to say that i dislike both of them, im more a humanist sans serif

  6. Perhaps you can call Fontometer a “Fontoscope” (as in a microscope)? :-)
    Cause that’s what it does, isn’t it? Really cool! Another reason to switch to FF :-)

    “We don’t criticise a daughter for looking like her mother.” haha… it’s true, in my case people say smth like: “your daughter is so charming, just like her mother” :-) But I don’t think it’s a fair comparison for typefaces: after all, they didn’t evolve from each other naturally. In the case of Typefaces, I have another comparison, when people did criticise Gwen Stefani for looking like Madonna in the early days, when in fact they both were imitating Merilyn Monroe :-)

    Yes, I can see now many differences between Arial and Helvetica, but in truth, they’re very subtle ones, mainly in glyphs. The character shapes are almost identical, no wonder it’s difficult to spot a difference between them in smaller font sizes.

  7. DaveW

    Like Richard, I noticed a *lot* of Helvetica in Switzerland. Mostly done very well.

    There is a grace and consideration to the design of Helvetica that is painfully missing in Arial. And more than most typefaces, Helvetica done right is gorgeous, done poorly, hideous. Surprising for it’s ubiquity, Helvetica is a difficult typeface to work with. Helvetica is one of my five stock sans serif faces, along with Gill Sans, Frutiger, Futura and Univers. Helvetica is the hardest to use well, partly because of the baggage it carries.

    The Fontometer is neat; I’ll be using regularly it when I go back to teaching.

  8. Michael
    You make some interesting points, and what you say about Monotype — well we could write a book or two about that; not that Monotype is the only guilty party; Adobe could also be rightfully tarred with the same brush. I don’t agree with you in saying that Arial is a but I know where you’re coming from.

    Alec
    Yes,
    a little difference can certainly go a long way.

    Richard
    Many thanks for that correction. Very interesting indeed. Do you have any reference you could point me to? Thanks for taking the time to point this out. It would have been safer to say derived from the Latin for Switzerland.

    Daryl
    Your follow-up suggestion is an interesting one. Thanks. I also have a draft post (unfinished) re all the new Miscrosoft fonts (I think 6 faces in all); I guess I should get on and finish it. I haven’t used them enough to have formed a definitive opinion on them yet.

    Esben
    Pleased it works. Send me a screen dump if you have time (with OS and browser version). Humanist san serif are certainly a little friendlier (and many of them have a double storey g which I’m a fan of. Do you have a favourite?

  9. Vivien (Inspirationbit)
    Fontoscope. I love it. I never envisaged seeing the name “Gwen Stefani” on this blog — that made me chuckle. You’re certainly right about the size being very important in distinguishing these faces; add to that the low resolution of the screen, and many of the distinguishing features melt away.

    Davew
    Thanks for that insight. What do you teach, btw?

  10. The fontometer is a pretty neat comparison tool. Also “The Face of Uniformity” article was also informative.

    For me, the differences between Helvetica and Arial are still too subtle to notice unless I really focus. In everyday use, especially on screen, its hard to notice which is which.

    If you were to do a followup article on Helvetica and/or Arial, it would be nice to see you expound a bit on your opinion of when using these typefaces is most appropriate.

    Great article as usual.

  11. That Fontometer is awesome! Thanks for putting together such a great site. I’m learning quite a bit.

  12. Outstanding! Comparing these two fonts side by side and one on top the other is a great way to clarify their differences. They seem unmistakably different now. I’ve tried overlaying them before, but not nearly as successfully executed as the fontometer (I vote for fontoscope).

    Thanks, well done!

  13. A really interesting look. I’ve for some reason always liked Helvetica over Arial, but it’s great to see the differences between the two. Fontometer worked great.

  14. jb

    It feels really weird to say this but - side-by-side - I like Arial better.

  15. Very nice job on the Fontometer, John.

    I must say that I’m guilty of having dismissed Arial as a rip-off of Helvetica. While I see your point that it isn’t quite that, it’s certainly Microsoft’s end run around having to pay for its use. That said, I must admit I’ve worked a few straight layout projects over the last few years where the designer of the books I was doing called for it. It proved painless.

    Helvetica’s no favorite of mine, however. Years ago, when I started out as a proofreader of math and science, Helvetica was pretty much the only sans serif used by the typesetter for whom I worked. So I kind of got sick of it. But it’s a sturdy, useful typeface. If the worst I can say of it is that it’s ubiquitous, that ain’t bad.

    Remembering back to when I got my first equipment, a Macintosh IIx and a LaserWriter IINT, I can picture clearly an initial preference for Avant Garde. Somewhere along the way, it seems to have disappeared from the batch of fonts that come with the Macintosh. (Anyone know why?)

    For many years after that, I loved Futura. And I am embarrassed to say that I have just discovered a liking for Gill Sans.

    As always, John, great food for thought. Thanks.

  16. “What it’s wrong to do is criticize Arial as a clone or rip-off of Helvetica. It’s not. If Arial is a rip-off of Helvetica, then Helvetica is a rip-off of Akzidenz Grotesk; or we could simply say that they are both rip-offs of earlier Grotesque faces.”

    What an excellent point! And the fact that we need tools like the Fontometer to compare the less obvious differences between Arial and Helvetica shows how unfairly maligned Arial is. I like Helvetica better in the end, but I can’t justify knocking such a similar font. :)

    The Fontometer is awesome. Thanks for making it.

  17. sallyyi

    So interesting. I didn’t know they are so similar! It’s so good to see them next to each other, it makes much easier to see. I love this blog!

  18. Fontometer is amazing. One of the best mini-applications I have seen on the web.

    Another great, with even better points brought forward. To be honest, I’m not a fan of either fonts. Helvetica Neue on the other hand, love it.

    Now, next article.

    Helvetica vs. Helvetica Neue: The not-so-identical twin that always gets the shaft.

  19. Sallyyi
    I’m pleased it was useful. Thanks for your kind words.

    Cody
    Wow. Thank you. Interesting idea for a future post, and a nice turn of phrase.

  20. I’ll be waiting for it.

    PS - I’m working on a grunge woodtype graphic for a t-shirt. I’ll send you some new type work soon.

  21. Johno, here are some references/quotations to back up what I was saying about ‘Helvetica’ more correctly meaning ‘Swiss’ than ‘Switzerland’.

    I know of no better resource for Latin language than the Oxford Latin Dictionary. Fortunately I brought my copy with me to Switzerland, so here goes: [I’ve inserted some explanations in square brackets for those who don’t understand Latin-dictionary–speak]

    Helueticus ~a ~um, a. [adjective] Of or connected with the Helvetii

    Heluetius ~ia ~ium, a. [adjective] (masc. pl. as sb. [the masculine plural of the word, Helvetii, serves as a substantive/noun]) A Celtic people who migrated about 200 B.C. from S. Germany to the region of Switzerland; (as adj. [meaning the same as the previous word]) of the Helvetii.

    The Romans thought of u and v as the same letter, even though we commonly make a distinction when writing Latin. However, in many scholarly Latin resources u is used where otherwise you would expect a v, hence the reference to Helueticus (feminine form Heluetica).

    To confirm what I was saying about the formal (Latin) name of Switzerland, you can look at the beginning of the (current version of the) Wikipedia article on Switzerland:

    Switzerland (German: Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansh: Svizra), officially the Swiss Confederation (Confœderatio Helvetica in Latin, hence its ISO country code CH),…

  22. Chris
    Yes, “The Face of Uniformity” article is great. Nick Shinn is an excellent writer and really knows his type. If you’re ever over at Typophile, look out for his comments—he demonstrates an extensive knowledge of type; really impressive. I’d love to have him write on iLT (I guess I’ll have to ask him nicely).
    Future posts will address the point you made about “which font in which context.” I love this quote from Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style:

    Choose a typeface or a group of typefaces that will honor and elucidate the character of the text. p.22

    I’ll exapand on that in future articles.

    Adam
    Thank you. I’m enjoying your organicmechanic.org.

    Jason
    I prefer Vivien’s “Fontoscope” suggestion too; however, fontoscope.com is taken. I’m pleased you found the tool useful. I’ll be adding more fonts and more functionality in future.

    JB
    Good to see you here again. Yes, it’s certainly interesting to compare like this; it can help to dispel certain prejudices we have about type and typefaces (or it may even justify them).

    Stephen
    That’s a blast from the past—Macintosh II. I’ll look into your question re Avant Garde being dropped from the Mac bundle of fonts. All I know about this typeface is that it was designed by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase and was based on the logotype of the magazine with the same name. There’s an interesting piece about it in this article: ITC Avant Garde Logo. There’s also a good article by Mark Simonson on Typographica, ITC Avant Garde Gothic Pro.

    Timoni
    Thanks. A new and improved Fontometer is coming soon.

    Richard
    That’s fantastic. Thanks very much for coming back with that. You’ve convinced me. You should consider adding this information to that Wikipedia entry on Helvetica.

  23. @Johno (ILT)

    Well I have a love for all of the humanistic sans.. but one of the main reasons i love to use’em, is that “non-typophiles” find them quit lovely.

    Why do some people use Comic Sans? Well i believe the use it becourse the appearence is friendly and non threatening, like Ariel can be and this might be the main reason Microsoft use “Calibri” as the standard font for Office 07.

    The reason that i really dont like Helvetica and the tradionelle Akzidenz Grotesk inspireret typefaces is that they ‘slaves’ and lack the ability to be applied alone a serif typeface.

    I’ll send you some screenshot, but actually i don’t know if the appearence should look like that or not :-/

  24. I think this is the first time I’ve commented here, though I’ve been reading for a long time.

    I just wanted to say that your Fontometer is really, really fantastic. You see overlays like that a lot in type books, but I’ve never been able to interact with them. That is so terrific.

    Thank you.

  25. Ebsen
    Thanks for your comment and for sending me the screen shots. I’ll take a closer look at Calibri when I cover all the new Microsoft faces.

    Vincent
    That’s great. In true Web 2.0 tradition, I should have called the first version Fontometer 1.0 beta. A new and improved 1.1 is coming soon. Thanks for contributing to iLT. See you around soon.

  26. Hey Johno,

    I’m wondering if your Fontometer is generating images on the fly, or if it’s working with premade images. If it’s doing it on the fly, I would love love love to see the code behind it!

    In any case, it’s a great idea.

  27. Alec
    The current version just uses static images (pretty time consuming to create them). I’m working on two other versions: one uses sIFR; the other is based on the same principal as the captcha image generation (however, there are issues surrounding using the fonts online in that way). I also wonder (just thought of this) if svg is also a possibility.

    Ultimately I want to rewrite the whole thing so that it uses jQuery or some other JavaScript library, and need to fix the png transparency issue for stupid IE6 — ahhhhhhhh!. Any takers? It’s just a time thing right now. This is always the busiest time of year for me, work-wise.

  28. sIFR is a nice idea. SVG is a nice idea, too. I was thinking that ImageMagick would be a good possibility, too. The code example here (from a PHP module for hooking into ImageMagick) references fonts installed on a server but in a non-public folder, which would get around the problem of people downloading your fonts. I guess it depends on whether or not your server has ImageMagick installed, and if you can install something like MagickWand. If this worked, a PHP script could take a string and two font names as input, and generate images on the fly. And it wouldn’t be hard, I’d think, to wrap the whole thing in jQuery.

    One other idea is Adobe Flex. I’ve been meaning to teach myself Flex —- maybe now’s the time.

  29. Alec
    ImageMagick might just be the answer. I’ve never heard of it. If it’s open source, i’ll install it and try it out. The only obstacle might be getting the dragged glyph to align with the target glyph (if you know what I mean). Anyway, thanks for that. I’d never heard of ImageMagick.

    Re Flex: that might be beyond me.

  30. Alec
    I’ve just been taking a look at ImageMagick. You may have hit on the solution, I think. It’s going to be a steep learning curve, but I found this Image Magick page of sample font use (hideous looking page, but a great resource); and the guts of it look pretty straight-forward:

    convert -size 500x100 xc:lightblue -font SheerBeauty -pointsize 72 \
    -gravity center -undercolor white -stroke none -strokewidth 3 \
    -annotate +0+0 ’ Invitation ’ -trim +repage invitation_box.jpg

  31. Well, Fontoscopometer is working ok in IE. I just roll over the links and the image changes (instead of dragging).

    I agree with Vivien (and others) that these two faces are very similar. But to me, Helvetica seems to have a bit more thought put into its design; it’s more… elegant. But I get your point about not comparing, so suffice to say, I just like Helvetica better :)

    I’m glad Richard shared that info about the origins of the Helvetica name! That was interesting.

  32. Cool, Johno. (Man, that is one ugly page.)

  33. Lauren
    “Fontoscopometer” — something tells me that the .com of that will be available. That’s quite a mouthful, but great fun.
    What you did is a good idea. My initial version was without the drag — I added the drag for “interaction”; and also because it’s sometimes difficult to see which glyph is doing the overlapping or which is being overlapped.
    BTW, are you using IE7?

    Alec
    If ever I create a “worst of” gallery, that page is going in at the top. I had to take a break after two minutes — I though I might have a stroke.

  34. n3rdski

    I never really cared for Arial much. When I would write an email I would always change it to Verdana. As for anything print the idea of even using Arial would NEVER pop into my mind. Helvetica is a very overused typeface but I still love it and use it time to time.

    I found this website awhile ago and I know you guys would get a kick out of it.
    http://www.engagestudio.com/helvetica/

  35. Now looking at your site for the first time through Firefox eyes.
    The Fontometer is fantastic now that I can actually see it!

  36. At work we use IE6 (I am home now with my beloved FF!!). The fontometerscope seems to be working the same now in FF as it did in IE. It looks prettier in FF, though! There is a nasty greyish background in IE.

    P.S. I really like how you added actual examples to the featured fonts on the sidebar. That makes it easier to see if I’ll like them enough to go visit the page and buy them. Are you getting a referral fee for that? I bet you could very easily monetize this site without it being annoying to readers by promoting affiliate programs. Oo! And I like your favicon! Cool!

  37. n3rdski
    Thanks for the link. I’ve seen that before, but it is well executed (I could never do something like that in Flash).

    Jack (Horrorwood)
    Aother FF convert. It really is incredible that MS never addressed IE6’s flaky support for png. See you later today.

    Lauren
    “Fontometerscope” is growing on me. You’re usually the first to notice (or mention) these little changes I make. I have something else planned for that sidebar, so that that I can use text rather a graphic (but actually use the font) — more on that in an upcoming article (that one’s taking ages to write). The favicon is set in Revalo Classic (soon will change to Anonymous, I think. Your suggestion re monetizing is an interesting one, and food for thought.

  38. Barney Carroll

    Great article, fantastic deluge of response!

    To all those of you remarking on how wonderful-for-web Calibri and the other Vista fonts are, beware – they bring out the absolute worst of the dreaded CSS font-family property.

    People have described the Vista fonts as very tall, but they are in fact very thin. I love my small type, but I can’t deal with Calibri at under 14 pixels (as opposed to 10 pixels for Verdana or Arial). So if you style your page to look beautiful for Vista users, non-Vista users are going to get something huge.

    So as much as the fonts are theoretically fantastic, we just can’t use them conscientiously on the web. I don’t know whether to blame Microsoft’s bizarre notion of size or the CSS’s terrible oversight in giving font face fall-backs without specifying other crucial font properties. In any case it’s a terrible shame.

    PS: John, you typoed ‘Helveitca’ in the post title!

  39. Geez, if this doesn’t take me back to a posting I just received a few minutes ago on a usually silent maillist, Discussion of Type and Typographic Design, about following “the rules” and following them blindly. I was moved to comment and said that without rule-breaking humanity most likely would not have lasted his long.

    On the other hand, we once again see both the good and the bad of not sticking with one rule—or standard—when it comes to the Windows/Mac deal. The different screen draw, and even (I remember from my CRT days) the different gamma of each systems monitors. Oy, when philosophical distinctions demonstrate their real-life consequences!

  40. Misspelled my own effin’ name! Gotta get a day job. (Kidding, kidding. I already have one o’ those.)

  41. Barney
    Yes, a good response. Thanks for adding your voice too. That’s very interesting what you say about Calibri. I must take a closer look. You really had me worried for a moment, when you said I’d misspelled “Helvetica”, then I realised you meant the meta title. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m off to fix it now.

    Stephen
    There’s certainly some truth in what you say about “breaking the rules”. It’s just so much nicer to be aware that we’re breaking them. I’ve corrected the typo in your name — happens to us all (thankfully, I have Barney to look out for me).

  42. Not that you need more ideas for posts, John, but I would be interested to read about your choices of fonts for this site. Why Anonymous over Revalo Classic, for example? What did it say that Revalo Classic didn’t? How did it more accurately fit iLT?

  43. Lauren
    Actually that’s a good idea. I’m always impressed that notice even changes to the smallest of details.

  44. Bandini

    I’m completely adicted to this site.

    Please, don’t ever stop it.

  45. The Fontometer is absolutely fontastic.

    Being a developer/designer myself, I hope you don’t mind if I toy around with it a bit, I can see this becoming an even more useful tool. (What if you could upload your own two fonts to compare, for example?)

    Speaking of useful things, http://typetester.maratz.com/ is quite handy at times.

  46. Bandini
    That’s what I like to hear.

    Hamish
    Feel free to play with it. The coding is awful. I wanted to do it with jQuery, but just didn’t have the time. If you can improve on it, then by all means have a tinker.

    I don’t know if you read the comments above about Image Magick, but I’m thinking that might be an interesting solution. Uploading is an interesting idea. I have plans to initially have about 100 fonts to compare. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for stopping by and contributing.

  47. I still like Helvetica better. Arial just doesn’t look right to me. It’s not a beauty at all ;-)

  48. Ah, it’s just because I’m observant and I visit a few times a day (referencing different things in your articles!) so I get used to what’s been here and what’s new. Glad to see you added the About link to the top nav :D

  49. Lauren
    You see, I do listen to you sometimes. I’m surprised how many people are actually visiting the About iLT page, so it was worth putting it up there. Thanks. And thanks for being such a loyal supporter (from the outset).

  50. Cool comparison. The Fontometer works great in Opera, btw. Anyways I’ve always known there had to be SOME differences between the two fonts (even if they were invisible at normal screen sizes on a computer monitor) and now I know that those differences really DO exist.

  51. Of course, John! And it helps that this is such an interesting topic and you are an excellent, funny, interesting and knowledgeable teacher ;) It would be fun to make up some typographical smilies. Like make them some special images (not the default yellow smilies) that are still type-based but not just the type… know what I mean? It would add yet another special touch to iLT!

  52. Lauren
    Sometimes I think you’re reading my mind. I’ve created a few, but am not happy with them. The default smilies certainly look a little out of place here. The ones I’m trying to create are just made out of type (punctuation, etc.), but they’re proving more difficult than I’d envisaged. “:)”

  53. If Arial isn’t a “rip-off” of Helvetica, why were the widths of original PostScript Arial identical to those of the PostScript Helvetica of the era?

    Surely not so Microsoft Word users could swap the free Arial in for Helvetica, which required a licence fee?

  54. I apologize for, I suppose, misusing this space of yours, but John, face it, you’ve got about the most successful blog there is on the subject of typography and, to a lesser extent, page design. I’m hoping to tap into the knowledge, intelligence, and interest of that audience of yours—of whom you know I am a legitimate member and not just some poseur or spammer.

    But I’ll at least try to be brief. Here’s my sitch …

    I have a blog of my own. The point of it is to reach kind of a multi-headed audience: potential clients (publishers of all sizes—the megaliths, as well as medium-sized, small, and self-publishers—and book packagers) and other publishing types and freelancers. I’ve gotten feedback about the look, some of which I’ve acted on. But, basically, I like how it looks a lot. It’s actually been put together by a very talented young woman who actually isn’t looking for any projects at this very moment, else I’d throw her name out here.

    What I am, however, in need of is some advice about the direction to take my blog entries themselves. I want a wider audience. For one thing, just looking around at I Love Typography, I see that there’s an energy and, just plain fun here. Now, I don’t figure that a blog with my intent—to drum up potential book design and layout clients and business—can be primarily fun, but I’m saying that the activity here feels like fun.

    Anyone willing to share a little perspective, make me some suggestions perhaps?

    Thanks. (And thanks, John, if you don’t think this little ad for myself is inappropriate and you let it stand.)

  55. I dunno, John, that smilie I see in my comment above it pretty cute! They usually aren’t facing the right way.

    Steven, I’m completely baffled at how John has won so many readers! Oops, that sounds mean! Of course he has spectacular content and this blog’s design is awesome, but he told me he never did any promotion! I guess it just goes to show that when you find an under-served niche, it can really take off! I think it’s all about the author being genuine, too. John let’s his comedy come out here, but he’s also very open and he shares his thoughts while still being professional.

    Have you ever read Copyblogger? He has some great advice for writing content people will want to read. Writing content for online purposes is a lot different than writing for print, too. People skim online and it’s important to give them ways to do that. Oh, and might I make a little suggestion about your blog design, Steven? The hover state of the links in your posts (including the post title links on the home page) make them very difficult to read; the color is too light. I’m viewing it in FF on a PC.

  56. Lauren
    Thanks. I’ve been thinking about Stephen’s comment, and I’m struggling to answer it. I really know very little about the “secrets of successful blogging”, so it’s difficult to suggest that someone do x, y and z.

    These, however, are my tips (they’re not rules, just observations, or things I think, maybe, perhaps, probably affect who and how many read):

    1. I really struggle to read light copy on a dark background, or text that doesn’t contrast enough with what’s underneath it; and if the light copy is, say 10px, then I usually won’t read it;

    2. Short and sweet. Reams of copy will put most people off immediately;

    3. Use images in posts. Images help to break up the content into smaller, more manageable chunks; they allow us to take a breather, and still remember where we are. That’s difficult to do in a long passage of plain text.

    4. Size. If body text is 10px (or horror of horrors <10px), I usually won’t read it if I’m on my laptop.

    Other than that, I have no idea. Darren Rowse of Pro Blogger is probably the man to ask.

    I really wish I could offer some more constructive advice, but I just write a blog. I’m thrilled that so many people visit, but I’m not sure why they do.

  57. I’m so glad I found this site… I was a font junkie back in my prepress days, but since ‘94 have lost my edge.

    I once noticed a similarity between Arial and Franklin Gothic, a font that’s been around since letterpress days, if I remember right. I never cared for Helvetica or Arial much, but preferred Helvetica Neue if I chose to use it.

    I think one reason I so dislike Arial, is that Microsoft put it in the forefront in the context of Word, Excel, and IE which are sooo revoltingly bad at rendering fonts onscreen, where I use them the most.

    I go for Univers. It works well as a graphic on the web, I just wish it were more, ahem, universal. And, I wish Microsoft would take a cue from Apple (20 years late) and learn to render fonts onscreen. Oddly, Apple has taken a step backward with its recent standard font picker, which doesn’t support leading. Go figure.

  1. .terceiro vag—Nov 14, 2007
  2. Helvetica | Cain Mosni—Oct 17, 2008

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