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Font Wars

2020 has confronted our world with crisis after crisis. In such a time where we are presented with so many issues, we must prioritize those that have troubled millions of Americans and reached their ugly arms far and wide and relentlessly vexed people across the world for decades.

There has been dissent over fonts since the Great Depression. In 1929, The Times (a British newspaper) hired Stanley Morison to design a new text font. He composed one in “serif” (serif fonts feature decorative ornaments at the end of strokes) and named it Times New Roman

Swiss graphic designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann were bothered by Times New Roman’s highly decorated style and distinct personality. Thus, In 1957, they created Helvetica, a “sans serif” font without the serif decorations. Helvetica quickly became the industry standard for everything from company logos to printed headlines, yet it would not remain on top for long.

In 1984, Arial was devised to compete with Helvetica. Its makers found issue with the industrial and emotionally detached predecessor, seeking to solve this by changing some characters to add some flavor to the older font’s grid-like design.

Almost forty years later, the battle is still being waged. At Forest Hills Eastern, since most English teachers require students to use the MLA format, Arial and Times New Roman are the two most used fonts. This has led to a conflict between those who prefer to relish in the old and those who hopefully cling to the new.

Times New Roman lovers applaud the font’s distinct style and compatibility with large amounts of text (as it was created for newspapers). For example, multiple English teachers prefer students to write essays in the serif font. Arial enthusiasts, on the other hand, praise the simple sans serif and the fact that it was created with the digital age in mind; in particular, it is the default for many software—including this very article. However, there are also those who equally prefer using each in its natural environment. When asked to explain her preference of font, Linda McCarthy, a long-time English teacher at Forest Hills Eastern, clarified that serif fonts are quicker to read than sans serif fonts. The straight, plain lines of the latter slow us down; that’s why reading text in all caps is frustrating. Serif is easier to process if you’re reading a lot, so Mrs. McCarthy requires her students to write essays in Times New Roman. If she’s designing a presentation and needs to grab attention, though, she uses a sans serif font like Arial.

Times New Roman and Arial are not the only popular fonts. Helvetica is commonly still used in media varying from default presentation themes used by elementary school students to the logos of Microsoft and Harley-Davidson. Comic Sans is a very bizarre font, but in turn offers its own curious advantages. James Rose, a student at FHE, prefers Comic Sans over both Arial and Times New Roman despite both being forced into his writing. When asked to elaborate, James claims that “Comic Sans is beautiful due to how ridiculously simple it seems, but in reality it harbors a dark secret of being one of the most menacingly annoying fonts of all time.”

Whether you cringe when you see the default Arial of a Google Doc, must squint to read the smaller spacing of Times New Roman, or groan at your third party seeming irrelevant, an all-encompassing solution is sadly too difficult to find due to preference of font being so subjective: the best idea is to ask your client, boss, friend, or teacher what typeface they prefer. After all, the font war is the most relevant topic of discussion in late 2020 bar none.

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