August 21st, 2007 / Ross Johnson / 0 Comments

Thoughts on Type

Some may have read over my two posts on the possibility of using times new roman on the web. You may have also noticed the criticism/disagreements I received in the comments section.

The argument is that there is no reason to use Times when a better typeface, Georgia is available instead. Times of course is the bastard child of type that everyone shudders to see on every paper, note, or report. We didn’t always realize that times was an ugly font however. At some point in typography 101 our instructors shocked us by saying “That font you use every day is the worst thing to happen to type.”

It is true, Times New Roman is not a great font; Georgia is a beautiful font. That doesn’t mean that times should be banned from tool chest, believe it or not there are reasons to use ANY font regardless of your preconceived notions.

Typography is about two things, communicating a message through minuet details of letter forms, and legibility. Times new roman, although over played and awkward looking at times can be very legible. One of the large criticisms of Times is it’s poor handling (or lack) of ligatures. On the web this isn’t even an issue!

For most cases times would not even be a second thought, and I agree. I have yet to use times in any design I have published. However I can see instances where I would use it just to be bold and brash, communicating that “Yes I can use times in my design.” Hell even the dreaded comic sans could be used to the right effect. Picture a design that is supposed to communicate the growth of a designer him/herself, with comic sans crossed out and a more elegant typeface in it’s place? The use of a infantile typeface shows the gap between the start, and the designer today.

So you can stick to the ever-so popular helvetica and georgia typefaces, and no one will question your choices. However if you are not pushing yourself as a designer and simply sticking to the trends then when are you ever really going to be a pioneer? You will always remain another person in the crowd unable to distinguish yourself.

I encourage everyone to think for themselves, and experiment with the boundary where art and design meet. Even if that doesn’t mean exploring forbidden typefaces, there are plenty of other areas you can break free from and find a new source of inspiration and style.

I leave with a quote from Dave S of Mezzoblue

“Since 1994, nearly all browsers have shipped with Times as the default font. Up until the introduction of the tag, the only way it could be changed was if the user reset her own default. Most of the web was viewed in Times, and when a way to change that finally appeared we quickly embraced it and never looked back.

So why the continual shunning? It’s a good font. Designed in 1931 for The Times of London, it has become the de facto standard for digital imaging. While not as pixel-precise in its on-screen rendering as Georgia or Verdana, it still does a fine job. But still we ignore it, unless we specify it as a last resort for the lunatics viewing our site who even now don’t have Georgia installed.”