Arial landed on our screens at the outset of the desktop computer boom, when Microsoft were looking for a suitable typeface for their interface. IBM, as it was then, in 1992, needed a typeface as part of its suite of ‘fonts’ to integrate into its system with optimum legibility and reproduction ease. Their first choice may have well been Helvetica – an icon in typography and communication across the globe since in 1957. Yet, with the use of Helvetica came the hefty licensing fees for which Microsoft was unwilling to shell out. An innovative and design attitude was adopted and their very own Arial was born.
Such was/is its popularity and ubiquity, this unassuming text choice has become to go-to typeface for a vast array of businesses, in print and online. So much so that designers everywhere have now been trying to avoid it with every given brief! Saturation limit has been reached, for what was already an uninspiring form. Ask someone in the design world, and they will say that Arial does not posses the same elegance and care in construction as Helvetica. Perhaps dismissed as the (sometimes) pedantic opinion of designers (or attention to detail, as I like to call it, and what clients pay for!), this view is apparent with Helvetica remaining the enduring cool kid on the branding block, whether courting minimalism or übergrunge opulence. Arial is now often listed as one of the typefaces to best avoid, alongside that other treasure, Comic Sans. But we won’t go there today…. Break free!… and select the innumerable free fonts that Google provides, or for a more curated selection with a design budget to match, browse the leaders in this realm, Monotype, or speak to a friendly design agency who love to geek out on this…. 🙂