Times New Roman or Arial? Outside of what you select as the font type for what you’re typing, most people are unaware of the many different forms of typography they come into daily contact with. However if I was to mention a specific UK national newspaper title to someone, there is a high likelihood that they would be able to visualise the masthead title, and its usually unique font type. Obviously over time the designs can change, whether it be radically or evolutionary, but the aim is always to be distinctive. This is because there are around 23 UK national newspapers, if we include both weekly and Sunday editions. There is a lot of competition, as a whole and within the tabloid, mid-market and quality sectors. You need to stand out, and outside of the paper size, layout and written content, typography will play its part.
An example of this is The Guardian which moved to the Berliner-sized format of paper in 2005, a familiar format in many European countries. Until then the options had been broadsheet, such as the Financial Times, or tabloid as with The Sun. In 2003 The Independent, followed not long after by The Times, shrank from broadsheet size to tabloid (or should I say ‘compact’) size. With the alteration in size came changes design wise and this included fonts. The Times, which was the original source of Times New Roman, changed from Times Classic to Times Modern in 2006, citing an improvement in readability when it came to small font sizes. It was used for both the masthead and the remainder of the text, and was created by Neville Brody and Luke Prowse of Research Studios.
The Guardian followed a similar pattern in having a new font for its new size format and layout. It moved to a slab serif font, the specially designed Guardian Egyptian. It was designed by Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz and was the only one to be used within the paper, although there are 96 variations. The previous masthead title had been in place since 1988 and involved two separate fonts conjoined. ‘The’ was in italic Garamond whilst ‘Guardian’ was set in bold Helvetica. The latter font style was also used for headlines, whilst for the body text a serif font called News Miller was utilised. In 2005 the reasons for the body text’s size selection (8 point on 9.5 point) was that it allowed more words in a space, yet it was still very readable.
Whenever design changes are made there are likely to be complaints, as people obviously will have become attached to the old design. This happened with the 1988 font change when a thousand letters of complaint were received in the first five days it was used. In 2005 the one major complaint was about the dropping of the Doonesbury comic strip. Says it all really! The efforts of the designers were rewarded in 2006 when the paper was joint winner of the world’s best-designed newspaper awarded by the Society for News Design.