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The Times New Roman Font: Evolution and Readability Dissertation

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Updated: Jul 28th, 2022


“Nothing endures but change” said the famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535 BC – 475 BC). There are many variants to what he said like “Change is the only constant”. Nevertheless we live in a world that is changing constantly. We constantly change and redesign the things we are so used to.

The fonts used by leading newspapers are sourced after much research, taking into consideration the legibility, clarity and printing space. These fonts are the by products of extensive study and are designed by state of the art type foundries who employ individual type designers who specialize in custom newspaper fonts. The typography used in a newspaper represents a sample of the state of the medium. The typography used in today’s newspapers has both conservative traits. In that the fonts used are only subtle innovations and the changes are marginal but tailor-made for this century. 1 2 3

Mario Garcia, who has worked on the redesign of dozens of newspapers worldwide, notes “that much of his work is driven by the need to make this relatively ancient news medium a reading experience attuned to 21st-century habits. “I think there is a more impatient reader,” he says. “Newspapers are not the sole providers of news anymore, and we have to make them more appealing.” Type sizes are getting larger, he notes, citing a recent redesign of the St. Petersburg Gazette which took body copy up to an unprecedented 10 points. (The standard in the 1980s was 7.5 points, he says.) This trend corresponds with an aging readership with ailing eyesight.

Garcia’s team recently broke convention with a free newspaper in the Dominican Republic, El Expreso, which adopts a small, half-tabloid format providing a high-speed read of the daily news—in theory piquing the interest enough to prompt the reader to purchase its larger, traditional parent newspaper, Listin Diario. Launched in May 2001, El Expreso proved extremely popular, with a 120,000 print run and advertising sold in advance for its first three years. In Garcia’s view, more newspapers need to accommodate the reader who wants to get through the news in “seven to eleven minutes flat.”4

To say that the face of printing and associated technologies have changed in the last couple of years, would be to state the obvious. There is no doubt that printing, like all other fields, has changed to such an extent that it is difficult to even visualize how the process of printing was, half a century ago. From a manual process of typesetting to the present digitalized world of printing, a whole new process has evolved, proving that technological advancements shape every single sphere of our lives. 5

If one were to take a close look at the journey that the print media has made from the Gutenberg era till where it is now, there is a strong correlation in the kind of fonts and typefaces that have been used, during this period of time, with the changes in socio-cultural and economic practices prevalent. The use of huge fonts in order to stress on the importance of the news that was being conveyed is one such event. The tendency to display catchy phrases in big bold lettering caught on in a big way, when the print media realized that it was necessary to catch the attention of the reader, if they wanted to become stable in the business. 6

With the transformation of the shape of letters from curved and ornate designs to the more structured and no-nonsense type of letters, the font designs that have invaded the printing scene seem to have come full circle. 7There is however, a strong tendency to ensure the legibility of the style and the readability of the writing, at all times. This is true, irrespective of whether the matter for reading is part of a newspaper or book. The evolution of the Times New Roman script has become one of the most well studied and documented journeys of printing history, in recent times.

One of the main reasons why this font and the story of its evolution became so relevant was the period in which the series of events unfolded. During the two world wars, there was a surge of writing that focused on the events in various spheres. The changing political scenario also impacted the cultural and social milieu, giving it a whole new dimension. Since the impact of this was so strongly felt, there was also a need to document these momentous happenings and present them in as appealing and memorable a way as possible. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. It is necessary to recall that the Times New Roman evolved only because of one single newspaper, The Times, an event that would go down as a defining moment in the annals of the history of printing.

Once, the supremacy of this font had been established, it was only a matter of time before it would begin to be adopted in all other media. Over the years since its inception, there have been thousands of fonts or typefaces that have made their entry into the print media. Their exits however have remained unremarked and insignificant. On the other hand, the Times New Roman continues to evolve and change with the times. 8

Though there is a strong foundation of what this font used to be, there is still a tendency to dabble with these fonts, trying to produce a winning combination by blending the old with the snazzy new. This process of blending has furthered the cause of innovative practices in the printing industry. For instance, the Times Classic is a characteristic blend of two styles. On the one hand, the traditional features that are part of this font are relics of the original Times New Roman; on the other hand, there are understated changes that have been made as well. These changes have been made to ensure that a high level of clarity and legibility are maintained, even when the font sizes are reduced considerably.

In the course of this paper, an effort has been made to trace the journey, albeit with its many crests and troughs, of the Times New Roman font and that of its close associates, over a period of time. 9

History of printing

The evolution of type and typefaces can be construed as the pinnacle of printing. The design and redesign of typefaces and the origin of printing can be attributed to the genesis of the printing world. In the years bygone Man began printing or publishing books or rather something akin to books by using some forms of chisels or brushes and or pens. Technically this form of getting a book was rather too expensive and only the nobility could afford. With the advent of typefaces and through machines that were capable of printing in huge quantities, mass production of books came into existence and printing and publishing became cheaper.

It is widely believed that the first person who was responsible for bringing typography at very reasonable rates was one Claude Garamond.10 He was not just a printer but a typographer as well and so were the early printers. He based his type on the early Roman font Griffo. This typeface was due to one Francesco Griffo.11 Claude Garamond is attributed to one of the classic cal Roman fonts called by his name Garamond.12 He worked for the publishing house owned by the printer, Aldus Manutius of Venice. Although I am making an effort to trace the history of typography, it should be remembered that it will be far from complete. Thomas W. Phinney 13 talks of four revolutions in the field of typography.

The first revolution started with the printing process developed by Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1450-1480). It was through his technique of printing that mass production of books began. His invention of the movable type was responsible for the successful printing of the Gutenberg Bible of 1454. Prior to that, books were produced by scribes. These scribes were based in monasteries and were primarily employed to write religious texts or documents. This process of writing was indeed laborious and labour intensive and these scribes were able to produce only a handful of books. In those days a few books constituted a library and a collection of a hundred books was beyond the imagination of most people.

Gutenberg’s process was very basic and did not change for many centuries. “A punch made of steel, with a mirror image of the letter is struck into a piece of softer metal. Molten metal is poured into this, and you get type. The type is put into a matrix to form the page of text, inked, and then pressed into paper.”14 This technology spread throughout Europe in a short span and there were over a thousand printers who were operating from over two hundred towns and cities. The typical print run for these books by these early printers were in the range of two hundred to a thousand copies. Phinney says that “Many groups sought to control this new technology.

Scribes fought against the introduction of printing, because it could cost them their livelihoods, and religious (and sometimes secular) authorities sought to control what was printed. Sometimes this was successful: for centuries in some European countries, books could only be printed by government authorized printers, and nothing could be printed without the approval of the Church. Printers would be held responsible rather than authors for the spread of unwanted ideas, and some were even executed. But this was a largely futile struggle, and most such restraints eventually crumbled in the western world.”

The Industrial Revolution brought about a lot of changes and innovations. Among these early innovations was the introduction of Rotary steam presses. These ‘modern’ presses were capable of producing books at 16% of the time taken by the Gutenberg printers. Then the technology took a step forward with the introduction of line-casting machines of Linotype (in the US) and the Monotype (in UK). These line-casting machines were capable of reducing the printing time by over 85%. With introduction of these machines, typesetting and printing speeds increased dramatically so did the speed of punch-cutting.

Photo composition as a science gained widespread acceptance only in the early 1950s although photo composing machines like “Photon” and “Fotosetter” made their entries in 1944. Some of the precursors to the modern typesetting machines, which depended to a large extent on computers, gained popularity between 1973 and 1983. Needless to say, that most of these machines had to be used, taking into consideration, the many problems that were encountered and rectified. Over the years, these problems grew less with the innovative practices and techniques.

Over a brief period of time, it was found that PostScript was the more widely accepted standard for all kinds of typesetting that had a digitalized origin. One of the main reasons why this particular script became popular was its extent and scope. The way in which it could handle graphics, was truly amazing, considering the state of evolution of digital typesetting, at the time. What made this all the more user-friendly was the fact that it was perfectly compatible with both the Macintosh as well as with the PageMaker, thereby making it the most important and vital resource for computerized typesetting.

The next step involved getting into the WYSIWYG mode of typesetting. Up till now it had been the practice to keep typing the entire text after setting it in a particular font. This would not be displayed on the monitor but would appear in the true font when printed. This did pose a few problems, as there were difficulties while trying to envisage what the completed text would look like, without an earlier indication. This process was entirely transformed with the WYSIWYG way of typing wherein you could actually see what the final product would be like.

Today, a lot of the typesetting that is done follow a pattern wherein the printing is first done on a kind of film, which is later on converted into printing plates. This can be repeatedly used in the printing process. This process has now moved on to the next stage which avoids the use of film completely. This can be done with printers that have a very resolution, for instance up to 1200 dpi. It is relevant to mention here that the computer does the entire job, thereby making the preparation of plates, redundant.

History of typography

Understanding the evolution of various typefaces takes one back to the history of scripts and how the letters of a particular alphabet were formed. It is interesting to note the formation of letters on various mediums such as papyrus and stone. For instance, the Egyptian hieroglyphics involved the use of pictures and depictions of various life situations, thereby differentiating words and maybe even sentences. On the other hand, the Roman tendency to write with a chisel on a hard surface, more often stone, led to the clear cut formation of letters.

Over a period of time, letters seemed to take on more shapes, though it is to be mentioned here that, writing in itself began to follow a pattern and became a lot less complicated. The uniformity with which letters were formed or written led to the formation of a script as we know it today. The evolution of small and capital letters as two distinct entities, therefore, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The Egyptian style of written communication has been a considerable influence on the formation of scripts. It is commonly agreed that when one refers to an old style of writing, one is talking about the more flowery-looking style, one which is replete with strokes and curls albeit fairly illegible. This is true of letterforms such as Blackletter or Old English. The letters could be considered as works of art rather than part of a script that was used to convey a coherent meaning. The spate of criticism on the legibility of these letterforms took on a new meaning also because of the socio-cultural changes that were sweeping across the globe at the specific time in history.

Artistic and flowery flourishes as modes of written expression began to give way to more clear-cut straight forwardness; this was reflected not just in ideologies but also in the very form of written communication. The Renaissance movement of the 14th century was probably the main cause for the shift from the curves and curls of the old styles. The marked change in the perceptions and views at this particular time had its impact on practically every sphere of life. The flowery flounces gave way to more severe and plain kinds of work.

This was apparent in the fields of art and culture and hence the written language was also impacted. Square forms began to replace curved ones, indicating a very straight forward approach. There were changes in the art scene at the time: approaches to social issues became more open and starker than before, leading to the New Wave, a phenomenon that was to set the foundation for future styles in the fields of literature, theatre, art and music. It is therefore, fairly easy to understand that the letter styles that evolved at the time, tried to focus more on clarity and simplicity of design rather than an intricate pattern that was used till then.

Genesis of the redesign of The Times, London

The year was 1932 and the day was the 3rd of October. A remarkable font was revealed to this world by a man who had dedicated his whole life designing fonts. The font was Times New Roman and the medium through which the world saw the font (sometimes spelt fount) was on the leading newspapers of the day: The Times of London. To say that the Times New Roman font is probably one of the most well recognized of all fonts today, would certainly be a gross understatement. When on the subject of the origin of this very popular style of forming the printed letters, one cannot but help refer to the genesis of The Times.

Popular belief has it that, the formation of letters in the paper was the principal forerunner of what the font is now today. In the interim period, between the origin of the paper and the establishment of the font in the year 1932, there were quite a few other fonts that were tried and tested. However, none were as well accepted as the Times New Roman.15

One might wonder what the popularity of this font had to do with the newspaper. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, The Times came to be recognized as a newspaper of the masses. One could find people from all walks of life, gleaning facts from it as part of their daily routines. It would not be uncommon to find people reading the paper in their spare time. In fact, the paper came to be recognized as the one of the most ubiquitous accessories of travellers on the one hand and a common fixture in public places like hotels and cafes on the other. The constant endeavour of the publisher was to try to zone in on the right font for the paper to ensure that his reader base would escalate.

Another major problem that was being faced was from the technical angle. The clarity of the typeface had to be altered or retained depending also on the flexibility that could be exercised in the cutting of the letters. This technical consideration was one that also played a very important role. Of course, apart from the technical concern, he had to be very conscious of not allowing any form of erosion in the already existing readership that he had.

At the same time that The Times was trying to identify the right font to create the optimum level of reading comfort without compromising on the content quality and quantity, there were also other studies made by the government of the UK regarding the suitability of fonts being used. (It needs to be mentioned here that the word “fonts” has been used interchangeably with “typeface”, since the former is associated more with the IT field). The management of The Times carried out an in-depth study on how to sustain and improve the readership that they had at that point in time. Stanley Morrison, who was the advisor on such issues to The Times in 1930 tried to shed some light on the inadequacies of the typefaces that were being used.16 17 18 19 However, there was not much attention paid to his contribution, initially. In a couple of month’s time, it did dawn on the management brass of the paper that Morrison was on the right track. In an effort to set things right, they requested him to make a few workable suggestions that could help them turn things round, in terms of readership.

Stanley Morrison began work on improvising on the designs that had been in use hitherto. He had to ensure that sufficient care was taken so that the costs of cutting new typefaces would not impact the paper in an adverse way. Ease of reading was yet another major consideration. On his advice a committee was constituted to go into the alternatives to the present typeface. Referred to as the Committee on Typography, this committee of high ranking officials had its first meeting on the 26th of November 1930. The committee members involved Morrison in the task of identifying new and modern types that could be screened.

Some of the first designs that were suggested indicated the shape of what was to become the present Times New Roman. After a lot of trials and errors, the job of producing an alternative to the present typeface, was given to the Lanston Monotype Corporation Limited.20 21 This company came out with the first of the new typefaces in April 1931, which was a 9-point one; this typeface was cut at the Monotype Works, Redhill.

When the company next met on the 4th of June 1931, they were very keen to ensure that the typeface chosen for the paper would remain exclusive and therefore reflect the new face of the paper for a few years, to begin with. Though increase and sustaining readership was high on the list of priorities, the committee felt that it was important that the typeface chosen would eventually become synonymous with the paper and hence be as well known.

The initial production did not find much favour with the committee and there were repeated efforts to perfect the task. The Monotype Corporation was given the task of producing a typeface that would fulfil all the requisites laid down by the committee. Apart from this, quite a few professionals in the field of printing, library science and other related fields were called upon to give their expert opinions. Among those consulted were, Sir William Lister, Surgeon Oculist to the Royal Family, Sir John William Fortescue, former librarian of Windsor Castle, and John Robertson Riddell, Principal of the London School of Printing.

As specialists in their own fields, these people offered a precise and unbiased view of the readability and precision of the typeface from their individual points of view. Beginning from the eye surgeon who looked at the whole issue from the point of view of readability (in other words, ease of reading) to others who studied the issues of printing techniques and reading in various environments, the study was a thorough one from beginning to end.

Considerable effort was taken to check out how easy or difficult it was to read the Times New Roman font in varied kinds of light. The experts did not just look at the font and give an opinion; on the contrary, a great deal of time was spent on trying to find out the level of tiredness a person would exhibit after reading the particular font for a considerable period of time. The studies revealed that it was easy and no strain to the eye, to read this particular script in poor light.

The actual change within the press

Since the printing of the paper could not be stopped under any kind of condition, a way had to be found to circumvent the problem. If production was stopped and the typeface changed, then there would be a break, which would not augur well for the readership of the paper. At the same time, the staffs were acutely aware of the fact that changing from the present typeface to the new one that was to be tried out would be a long and arduous process.

In order to ensure the minimum loss of time and production, the dies that were used in the printing process were kept ready so that they could immediately replace the present ones, when the time for the changeover arrived. Prior to the actual changeover, quite a few dry runs were executed to gauge the amount of time that would be taken to carry out the removals and replacements. Since the printing and managerial staffs of the newspaper were already aware that the entire process would take around eight hours, a decision was taken to make the actual change on the 3rd of October 1932, which was a Monday. To ensure that the makeover went off smoothly, the entire process had to commence more than a day earlier.

The midnight of the Friday prior to the 3rd of October, saw the birth of a revolution in printing history. Since this was the last day of summer that year, which further contributed an extra hour, as summer time moved into GMT.

All the die boxes were stored beneath the machines that were in use in the press. Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, there was frenzied activity to ensure that all the machines in the press were equipped with the new typeface. In all there were thirty-six machines that had to be handled. A team of twelve mechanics did the job, spending an average of six hours for each machine; with some help they were able to complete the entire job of replacing typefaces fifteen minutes before the scheduled deadline. It was now left to those in the composing section to ensure that the new typefaces were used to carry out the printing in time.

Feeling the initial pulse of the reader

Just as all changes bring varied reactions, the introduction of the new font created quite a flutter among the readers of The Times. There were people who appreciated the font and expressed their reasons for the same. For instance, there were people who felt that the font lent itself to less eye-strain and hence had more of an appeal. There were comments on the efforts made by the paper to pep up the image of The Times through the introduction of the new typeface.

In spite of overall appreciation, there were a few dissenting voices that were quite sharp in their criticism. There were readers who felt that the bigger sizes of the font used slowed down their speed of reading. Reading tastes and preferences came out in the open with the advent of this font. What was amazing was the fact that enormous care was taken by the readers to study the font and offer their criticism and appreciation with the same intensity. The very fact that, opinions kept coming back, was proof that the new typeface had made an impact. Good or bad, it was clear that the new ‘kid on the block’ could not be treated with a mere cursory glance. It was necessary, to offer an opinion, which of course, could be critical or appreciative.

The Times had no doubts whatsoever that it would take a fairly good amount of time for people to get accustomed to the new typeface. Since the inception of the printing industry, no one had ventured so boldly into changing the existing typeface. With this pioneering effort, the paper succeeded in being a trendsetter for others to follow. Among those who considered this font to be ideal for their purpose were publishers like Penguin Books, who decided to use the font in all their paperbacks. Similarly, in the United States, the Cromwell-Collier Publishing Company began using the Times New Roman for its monthly magazines. One more paper that followed suit was The Sydney Morning Herald from the year 1945. It is not surprising to learn that this font came to recognized all over the world as the easiest typeface to read. It also occupied pride of place due to the fact that, it was easy on the readers’ eyes.

The table given below gives an update on the fonts in the masthead have evolved over the years in The Times, London.22


The above table gives one an idea of serif fonts and its changes over time. Appendix 2 gives an overview of the fonts namely: Times Roman and Times New Roman.

Why serif and why not sans serif for The Times, London

This question is eternally being asked by many “Are serif fonts better than sans serif fonts”? But then there has been an ongoing debate on this issue for many years. A lot of studies show that there is no difference between serif and sand serif fonts when it comes to readability and legibility. 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 But then there are some researchers who feel that serif fonts are better. 39 40 One observation states that a sans serif heading and a serif body text will work better than serif fonts for both heading and body text 41 “Of course, the rules mentioned above have their exceptions. The only way to find out what works is to experiment. The guidelines given may just help to reduce the number of options to be investigated and to explain afterwards what did and didn’t work.”42

Needless to say arguments about fonts and typefaces are never ending. But a recent study has found that a combination of Times New Roman 43 and Arial were found to be the fonts for reading electronic newspapers 44

The controversy surrounding the design of Times New Roman is that for the past few years there has been a debate that the font was actually designed by Starling Burgess, an American Naval Engineer. 45 Burgess “… has also been regarded as a strong contender to being the true designer of that ubiquitous typeface, Times New Roman. Stanley Morison certainly never admitted it was anything other than the work of himself and the draftsman Victor Lardent.” 46

Most of the early typographers have always preferred serif to sans serif. The renowned type designer, Eric Gill, upon being complemented on his Gill Sans, quipped, “Ah, yes, but how much nicer if they had had serifs!” 47 Now the question of why Stanley Morison chose Times New Roman and why not a sans serif font? The answer may be akin to what Eric Gill said. Also, san serif fonts evolved much later than serif fonts 48 and hence a serif font could have ruled the roost of the day.

About present day fonts and newspapers

Dmitry Kirsanov says that “No other design discipline requires so much learning and training as fontography, and by no other aspect can amateurs be so easily distinguished from professionals. To be font literate, a designer has to study the history and the principles of font design.”49 Although making fonts in the past were a stupendous job, the advent of computers has made making fonts a very easy job. There is one website where one can actually create one’s own font.50 With over 50,000 font types available in this world it is very difficult to do justice to all the fonts.51 According to an independent study by Ascender Corporation the top 10 fonts used by the top newspapers in the US are: Franklin Gothic, Poynter, Futura, Helvetica, Century, Utopia, Times, Nimrod, Bureau and Interstate. 52 53 The following text inside the box makes sense as typesetting by the newspapers are done through computers and information on PostScript and TrueType fonts is necessary. Some good information on “Typography, Layout, and Graphic Design” is available.54 Two new books on newspaper design are also worth trying. 55 56

History of PostScript and TrueType font formats 57 58

Typefaces on the Mac began with the bitmapped set of designs that came with the Mac 128K back in 1984. These pixel-based fonts, called bitmaps because they were literally a ‘map of bits’ in lego-like arrangements, were provided in a number of different type sizes. These were generally a specific set of point sizes; 9, 12, 18, 24, and 36pt were the most common. The fact that the sizes went up in a clear mathematical progression was no accident. The Mac’s first printers, the dot-matrix ImageWriter and ImageWriter II, printed at 144 dots to the inch, exactly double the 72 pixels per inch of the Mac’s internal resolution standard.

When 12pt text was printed the ImageWriter’s printer driver would use the 24pt bitmap form scaled in its place in order to get a cleaner, less crude-looking result. The ImageWriter LQ (which stood for ‘letter quality’) was a 288dpi device, and it shipped with a set of fonts with bitmaps going up to four times the normal text sizes rather than just double. Right from the start Apple’s WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) vision for display and print was balanced – very astutely – with the understanding that people also want the best a device can provide as well as a replica of their on-screen work.

Clever though this approach was, it was a bit of a cul-de-sac. Adobe showed the way forward when it produced the PostScript page description language and the PostScript type format. This teamed bitmap typefaces – for on-screen display – with precise maths-based vector shapes for recreating the typeface characters on PostScript-compatible devices. This allowed font designs to be printed with all the precision and grace of traditional typesetting. Well, in terms of basic character sets and setting control at least. With PostScript-driven laser-based imaging devices, all the ingredients for the DTP revolution were in place, and the publishing world was never the same again.

The problem was, PostScript was Adobe’s crown jewels, and the licensing costs for producing PostScript Type 1 fonts, and PostScript engines for printers for that matter, were kept high. (PostScript Type 3 fonts were less costly, but they didn’t contain the all-important hints for improving results at small text sizes.) In a bid to break Adobe’s grip on the professional font world Apple developed the TrueType font format while Microsoft worked on their TrueImage page description language.

The TrueType format was championed by Apple and, to an even greater extent, by Microsoft, and the specifications were published for anyone to use. The world was soon flooded with TrueType fonts of all kinds – some well made, others decidedly less so. In response, Adobe made the PostScript Type 1 specifications more generally available. The professional design world generally opted to stick with the PostScript format, in part because of problems encountered with lower-quality forms of TrueType fonts.

The next step, the development of the OpenType format, was driven by Microsoft’s desire to claim the design market and Adobe’s desire to extend the PostScript format’s abilities beyond the increasingly restrictive 256 character per font file limit. OpenType is a format which borrows directly from both PostScript and TrueType, and offers type designers the possibility of having many thousands of different characters (or, more strictly, glyphs, the proper term for each item within a typeface design) in a single font file. For Western language type designs at least this might seem excessive. After all, once you’ve covered the upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation, and a pocket full of extras, what more is needed?

Actually, a huge amount. For example ligatures, the customised combination of two or more characters in a font design, can be included no matter how many are created in a typeface’s design. All sorts of character alternates, such as swash capitals, special character designs for the end of lines and sentences, small capitals, non-ranging numeral options, and more can be stored in a single font file rather than split across multiple confusing ‘expert set’ fonts. Some fonts have been designed with more than 1,500 different glyphs, and designers are able to use these extras in more and more applications via intelligent formatting palettes and similar options. True typographic finess is becoming easier to achieve; the typographic limits are now more likely to be the designer’s own creative abilities rather than blindly learned technical knowledge and patience.

OpenType, the best of both worlds

With well-crafted and well-endowed OpenType typefaces and the right software you’ll be able to set type which can be the envy of die-hard traditional typographers. You’ll have to decide which options are appropriate for the work in question, and not all applications yet support these abilities. However, middling or better OpenType support can be found in design-oriented packages such as InDesign, Illustrator, Freeway and Photoshop, although not FreeHand as yet.

Why redesign newspapers?

Matthew Carter, the man behind the New York Times redesign, in an interview with Bob Garfield says that redesign in newspapers is inevitable and that newspapers “have gone over to different technologies, and that has given them an opportunity to sort of re-visit the typography of the paper and make some changes. Sometimes it happens for no other reason than that they’re bored with the way they were. You know, it’s been that way for a long time, and they want to change it. It’s often tied in to some editorial changes. They will add changes or change sections or start moving things around within the paper, so it’s part of the re-organization of a newspaper, from the editorial point of view.”59

Ron Reason in his article “Rethinking Redesigns: When is it worth It? 6 Questions for 2007” says that “decision to redesign your newspaper is an important one. The process is complex and may be confusing to the uninitiated, and in a business climate of uncertainty, it‘s not a small decision for any news publication.” 60 World-famous newspaper designer Mario Garcia embraces the challenge of blending the old with the new and his mission is to redesign newspapers with today’s readers in mind. In redesigning the Wall Street Journal he says that “A redesign is like plastic surgery… it can change your nose, but not your personality and my design will bring the story, the photos, the whole package to someone who gives it 10 seconds of attention and decides, I read or I don’t read.” 61


After this lengthy discussion on the evolution and readability of the Times New Roman font, there is one factor that runs like a thread connecting the ups and downs in the evolutionary life cycle of this printing style: the economic feasibility, after taking into account all possible factors. One is left with no doubt that no style would have lasted this long if the introduction of the same had caused medium to severe financial damage. Though most newspapers would like to justify their change in printing styles for various reasons, they would have thought otherwise if they found that they decisions to make the change set them back by several thousands (or hundreds) of dollars.

In the history of printing, when one continues to talk about innovation, change and all the other lofty ideas (sometimes, these do not develop into anything more than ideas), there is a strong inclination to sidestep quite a few factors and concentrate on what the real situation is like at the present point in time. This therefore brings us to a few basic changes. To begin with, there is a lot more than just the print media to needs to be concerned, while on the subject of fonts. In today’s world of e-books, websites and e-mails, it is difficult to say that one particular font alone gains acceptability over the others. This might be not only very presumptuous to say that this is possible, especially because of the very wide range of minds that one is trying to cater to.

If one were to look closely at the kinds of minds that view various websites, it is true that the popularity of websites is largely dependent on the kind of fonts and typefaces that are used. What might look good in a book, might not look all that appealing on a website. To the dismay of the entire book and newspaper industry, the growing number of people who use the internet today, has forced them to once again rethink and redesign the writing and lettering styles that are being used.

Going through popular websites today, will reveal a whole new way of presenting facts on a website. Of course, one must remember that the presentation of the content on a website is largely impacted by the nature or purpose of the website itself. It would not be incorrect to say that info on a website is presented in such a way that what one gets is a complete picture. It is in some ways akin to looking at a photograph; the only difference here is that you are looking at a picture that has a lot of images and text put together. Very rarely, you will come across a square frame with just text in it.

To cater to the ever changing and challenging world of media, there is a relentless effort to present info in the most readable way. Print barons would aver that it is far more difficult to be unique on a website than you can be in a book or newspaper. In spite of the power of fonts such as Times New Roman, there is still a lot of effort that goes in to finding the best solutions in lettering styles. To maintain the fragile balance between readability and economics of space, both in the web and print media, is certainly no laughing matter. With the paucity of time in the people’s lives today, there is a tendency to provide for the ingestion of information at double quick speed.

This can be done, only when there are catchy one-liners in blazing fonts that convey the message in the twinkle of an eye. In spite of all this, the Times New Roman continues to sustain the niche that it has carved for itself in the last seventy odd years. Whatever the media may be, this font seems to have found that balance (which is so necessary for survival) and continues to maintain it with single-minded focus on clarity and ergonomic viability.

Appendix 1


Francesco Griffo (1459 – 1518) was a “Bolognese punch cutter, working in Venice, Bologna and elsewhere in Italy. Author of at least seven romans, three italics, four Greeks and a Hebrew. None of Griffo’s actual punches or matrices are known to survive, and the house of Aldus Manutius in Venice, where he did most of his work, has vanished. (The site is now occupied by a bank.) Griffo’s letterforms have nonetheless been patiently reconstructed from the printed books in which his type appears. Giovanni Madersteigs’s Griffo type is an exacting replica of one of Griffo’s fonts. Monotype Bembo roman is based more loosely on the same font. Monotype poliphilus is a rough reproduction of another. Mardersteig’s Dante roman and italic are also based on a close study of Griffo’s work. The italics, overall, have received far less attention than the romans.”

“Francesco Griffo da Bologna started his career as a goldsmith, and later worked for the most important publisher of the day, the house of Aldus Manutius of Venice. He was the first modern type designer, in the sense that he devised types for the mechanical craft of printing and not for an alternative to hand-written manuscript. His initial project in Venice was to invent a typeface called Bembo, which is regarded as the most modern in appearance of all 15th century types.

He was the inventor of the cursive or italic style which made a fortune for the printer Aldus Manutius. His life ended in disaster. During a quarrel, he seized an iron bar and inflicted wounds leading to the death of his son-in-law. He disappeared from history after that and is thought to have been executed by hanging in 1518. His name lives on in a 20th century font by Hans Mardersteig called Griffo. In Spanish, italic fonts are known as letra grifa. “Griffo has never received adequate recognition for his enormous contribution to type design. (J. Blumenthal, The Art of the Printed Book 1455-1955, 1973.)”

Appendix 2

What is the difference between “Times Roman” and “Times New Roman”?

Charles Bigelow in his article “Times (New) Roman and its part in the Development of Scalable Font Technology62 describes the difference as “Times Roman is the name used by Linotype, and the name they registered as a trademark for the design in the U.S. Times New Roman was and still is the name used by The Monotype Corporation. The face was developed by The Times newspaper for its own use, under the design direction of Stanley Morison. Originally cut by the Monotype Corp. in England, the design was also licensed to Linotype, because The Times used Linotype equipment for much of its actual production.

During WWII, the American Linotype company, in a generous spirit of Allied camaraderie, applied for registration of the trademark name “Times Roman” as its own, not Monotype’s or The Times’, and received the registration in 1945.

In the 1980’s, all this was revisited when some entrepreneurs, desirous of gaining the rights to use the name, applied to Rupert Murdoch, who owned The Times; separately, a legal action was also initiated to clarify the right of Monotype to use the name in the U.S., despite Linotype’s registration.

The outcome of all of the legal maneuverings is that Linotype and its licensees like Adobe and Apple continue to use the name “Times Roman”, while Monotype and its licensees like Microsoft use the name “Times New Roman”.

During the decades of transatlantic “sharing” of the Times designs, and the transfer of the faces from metal to photo to digital, various differences developed between the versions marketed by Linotype and Monotype. Especially these became evident when Adobe released the PostScript version, for various reasons having to do with how Adobe produced the original PostScript implementations of Times. The width metrics were different, as well as various proportions and details.

In the late 1980’s, Monotype redrew its Times New Roman to make it fit exactly the proportions and metrics of the Adobe-Linotype version of Times Roman. Monotype claimed that its new version was better than the Adobe-Linotype version, because of smoother curves, better detailing, and generally greater sensitivity to the original designs done for The Times and Monotype by Victor Lardent, who worked under the direction of Stanley Morison. During the same period, Adobe upgraded its version of Times, using digital masters from Linotype, which of course claimed that it had a superior version, so there was a kind of competition to see who had the most refined, sensitive, original, genuine, bona-fide, artistically and typographically correct version. Many, perhaps most, users didn’t notice and didn’t care about these subtle distinctions, many of which were invisible at 10 pt at 300 dpi (which is an em of 42 pixels, a stem of three pixels, a serif of 1 pixel, and so on).

When Microsoft produced its version of Times New Roman, licensed from Monotype, in TrueType format, and when Apple produced its version of Times Roman, licensed from Linotype, in TrueType format, the subtle competition took on a new aspect, because both Microsoft and Apple expended a great deal of time and effort to make the TrueType versions as good as, or better than, the PostScript version. During the same period, Adobe released ATM along with upgraded versions of its core set of fonts, for improved rasterization on screen.

Also, firms like Imagen, now part of QMS, and Sun developed rival font scaling technologies, and labored to make sure that their renderings of Times, licensed from Linotype in both cases, were equal to those of their competitors. Hence, the perceived quality of the Times design became a litmus for the quality of several font formats. Never before, and probably never again, would the precise placement of pixels in the serifs or ‘s’ curves etc. of Times Roman occupy the attention of so many engineers and computer scientists. It was perhaps the supreme era of the Digital Fontologist.

As for the actual visual differences in the designs, well, like any good academic author, I leave the detection and analysis of those ‘as an exercise for the reader’. ”


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