Arial vs Helvetica

Arial is not the same as Helvetica, Arial is not the same as Helvetica, typeset in 48pt tightly kerned text and copy and paste after me…

Arial vs Helvetica

Arial, the ubiquitous Windows system font found everywhere from your boss’s email signature at work to the pass-me-on emails your that your grandma keeps on sending, is definitely not Helvetica as you can see above, but it is for all intents and purposes the poor mans’ version of, copied appropriated and shipped by Microsoft with Windows 3.1:

A contemporary sans serif design, Arial contains more humanist characteristics than many of its predecessors and as such is more in tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century.

While not sure what the copywriters at Microsoft were drinking, or what definition of humanism they were impersonating in writing that, we can be sure of one thing—that the world has been inadequately typeset ever since Arial plagiarised its way into ubiquity and the top of the Word application font menu.

To quote designer and typographer Mark Simonson:

Arial’s ubiquity is not due to its beauty. It’s 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.

Read more about the dubious history of Arial in Simonson’s The Scourge of Arial

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