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182: Arial: An Incomplete History of Type

From the middle ages to the Middle East, From Futura to Freight, join us on a journey across the type universe and go where no designer has gone before...Welcome to An Incomplete History of Type.

Name: Arial

Release Date: 1982

Designers: Robin Nicholas

Classification: Neo Grotesque Sans Serif

Owned by: Monotype Corportation

Claim to Fame: The Helvetica copycat

In this episode of Talk Paper Scissors' An Incomplete History of Type, I cover Arial, the Helvetica copycat. The story of Arial begins in the late 20th century, amidst a digital font battleground. Positioned as Monotype's rival to Helvetica, Arial emerged as a response to the need for a new typeface design for IBM’s new in-office laser printer. Nearly 10 years later, Microsoft adopts Arial and so the journey begins. Criticized for its resemblance to Helvetica and its perceived role as the cheaper alternative, Arial stirs debates on originality and ethics in typography by renowned designers. Despite criticism, it became widely adopted as it became intertwined with everyday communications. Today, Arial's legacy embodies the complexities of design evolution and corporate influence in creative spaces.


Coale, B. (2013, September 13). Arial, the controversial Sans Serif. Casey Printing - Commercial Printing, Labels & Folded Cartons.

Davis, E. (2013, December 8). Arial vs Helvetica: Unveiling the history behind the design. Arial vs Helvetica: Unveiling the History Behind the Design | 4OVER4.COM.

Dozome, N. (2022, September 19). A for Arial. Medium.

Oliver, S. (2021, July 12). Arial or helvetica – do you spot the difference?. Pimp my Type.,the%20a%20has%20no%20tail.

Ryan, L. (2020, June 19). The complicated history between Arial and helvetica. Issuu.

Simonson, M. (2024, February 1). The scourge of Arial. Mark Simonson.

Vaughan-Nichols, S. (2020, June 19). Was Microsoft in the 1990s really better than Apple in the 2020s?. ZDNET.

About Our Guest:

I’m Kennedy Thornton, a creative, and passionate Graphic Communications Management student at The Creative School TMU. I have an extensive skill set in all things graphic design, and art, with technical skills in pre-media and print using industry-standard software and processes. I am business savvy with an interest in marketing, communications, and brand development. I love to learn new things, meet new people, and innovate new ideas.

Music (public domain): TRG Banks - Above the Earth

Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle

Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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