Sunday, 8 November 2015

Off-Topic: Arial Design Error

It's amazing, utterly amazing! After 24 years, am I still the only person who's noticed the design error in the capital S of the Arial fonts bundled with Microsoft Windows? It might not be obvious by just looking at the single letter above. We need to compare it with the letter C.

That makes it obvious, doesn't it? The final cuts of the letters S and C are at different diagonal angles. In case that doesn't convince you, look at the small letters.

In the case of the small letters the final cuts are consistent. It looks like the font designer at Microsoft didn't check his work properly. It could also be that the error is older. The typeface Arial was originally designed by the company Monotype in 1982. If the error was in the original design it might have been copied into the Arial TrueType fonts that Microsoft first bundled with Windows 3.1. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the original Monotype fonts, so I can't check.

The design error in the capital S is present in all non-italic versions of the Arial typeface. It's most apparent in Arial Bold.

In comparison, look at Arial Italic. The capital S is perfect. Everything matches. Why couldn't the same care have been taken with the other fonts?

This is the main reason why I don't like using Arial. I'm forced to look at it when it's on my computer screen -- it's the default typeface for viewing my blog on Windows operating systems! -- but when I print documents I use Helvetica (the default typeface for smartphones), which is similar to Arial but a better overall design. That's only when I want to use sans serif typefaces, of course. It's more common for me to print letters using Century Schoolbook or Bitstream Charter. They're both wider than Microsoft's Times New Roman (a simplified version of Times) and are more legible at smaller font sizes.

P.S. I already pointed out this design error in my review of the documentary "Helvetica" two years ago, but I thought I would repeat it because I searched on the web yesterday and found no mention of the error anywhere, apart from the post I had written myself. There are many typeface experts who make general complaints about the quality of Arial in comparison to Helvetica, but none who point out this specific error.

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