126: Times New Roman: An Incomplete History of Type



Name: Times New Roman Release Date: 1932 Designers: Stanley Morison and Victor Lardent Classification: Mixed Transitional Old-Style (Serif) Owned By: Monotype Claim to Fame: The typeface commissioned by The Times and the most widely installed serif typeface

Times New Roman may remind you of the good old days in high school, with countless MLA style papers or even “professional” yet boring looking resumes. It might even remind you of the long instruction manuals you most definitely read and don’t throw out... We’re all guilty, don’t you worry. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “No one even uses Times New Roman anymore,” or “Times New Roman is so outdated.” But I assure you, Times New Roman is still an important typeface to look at. I mean even after a century, nine decades it’s been, it can still be found everywhere.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why was Times New Roman created in the first place? Well believe it or not, it actually began as a challenge. Stanley Morison, a well known and esteemed type designer, criticized London’s newspaper, The Times, for being out-of-touch with the modern typographical trends at the time; and so, The Times reached out and asked him to help rebrand themselves by creating a fresh new typeface for them. With the help of draftsman Victor Lardent, they were able to create the typeface we know

today as - you guessed it - Times New Roman! While creating this new typeface, Morison had two goals in mind: efficiency and readability. Since he knew his typeface would be specifically used in newspaper printing, he really wanted to make sure that it was economical - meaning that he wanted to maximize the amount of type that would fit on a line and thus on a page - while also still making it enjoyable to read over time.

“How did he do this?,” you wonder. Well let's look at - I mean hear about - some specifics. Morison increased what is known as “x-height” - the distance between the top and bottom of a lowercase letter that doesn’t have any ascenders or descenders, like the letters c or n. More simply put, x-height is literally the height of a lowercase x. The x-height can also be described as the amount of space between the median and the baseline. But enough about x-height. Morison also achieved efficiency by reducing the “tracking,” which is known as the space between each letterform. By adjusting these two type features, Morison was able to create a more condensed typeface.

So that was how he achieved his first goal of efficiency, but what about readability? Onto that now. Morison paid particular attention to the shapes of his letterforms. He designed his letterforms to ensure that more typographic contrast was present - meaning that there was a clearer difference between the thick and thin parts of letters. For example, the vertical strokes in a lowercase “n” were widened and the intersecting strokes were thinned. By doing this, it kept the typeface from appearing too dark or congested in the newspaper, and gave it a more rounded appearance, thus increasing its legibility.

After countless testings, Times New Roman was officially showcased in The Times and introduced to the public on October 3, 1932. The Times owned the rights of the typeface for a year, and then in the following years American publishers slowly started to adopt it. Why were they slow to adopt though? Because in order for it to look its best, it required a certain amount of ink and quality of paper that American newspapers were initially unwilling to use. But Woman’s Home Companion was the first magazine to adopt it in 1941, and then shortly after in 1953 the Chicago Sun-Times began to use it as well.

It’s important to remember that Times New Roman was designed specifically for newspaper printing and not book printing. It was originally intended to be used in shorter line widths (like the columns of a newspaper); but a wider version of the typeface was later created in order to be used in longer linewidths of text, but I won’t get too much into that. Though Times New Roman may seem outdated now, the reason it remains relevant today is primarily thanks to Microsoft and Apple. Technically speaking, Times New Roman (owned by Monotype) is one of Microsoft’s core fonts and Times Roman (owned by Linotype) is one of Apple’s. They are basically the same font but the original typeface hardware was created by the pair of foundries. Both Monotype and Linotype made their own typefaces available, just with slightly different names. Apple ended up choosing Linotype’s and Microsoft chose Monotype’s. Confused yet? It’s okay, I’ll move on now. In the early computer days, most documents were still printed, and Times New Roman was not only designed for print but was widely available as well since everyone either had a Windows or Apple computer at the time. On top of that MLA or Chicago style required Times New Roman, 12 point font! Full circle. So whether or not Times New Roman brings you nostalgia, it’s always nice to learn about how things came to be and know where typographical trends were in order to further understand where they are heading. Thank you for joining me on this episode of An Incomplete History of Type.



References

Baron, M. (2021, January 8). Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica: The font favorites, but why? BOOK RIOT. Retrieved from https://bookriot.com/history-of-popular-fonts/

Bigelow, C. (2019). Typeface features and legibility research. Vision research, 165, 162-172. Retrieved from https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/science/article/pii/S0042 698919301 087?via%3Dihub

Butterick, M., & Garner, B. A. (2015). A brief history of Times New Roman. Typography for Lawyers: Essential tools for polished & persuasive documents

Mann, M. (2014, December 9). Where Did Times New Roman Come From? The New York Public Library. Retrieved from https://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/12/09/times-new-roman







About Our Guest Host:

Maya Navarro is a recent graduate of the Graphic Communications Management program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). She completed a minor in Communication Design as well as a concentration in Digital Graphic Output. Maya was also a four year recipient of the Canadian Printing Industries Scholarship Trust Fund (CPISTF). Currently, Maya works as a Project Coordinator / CSR at Annan & Bird Lithographers and looks forward to growing her career and applying what she has learned from her four years in the GCM program.



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