Arial – Copied or an Original?


Because I have to produce a postcard with the font ‘Arial’, I thought it would be useful to know more about my font and the concept behind it…

Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype designed Arial in 1982. The font is actually related to the Monotype Grotesque 215, despite the many debates that the design of Arial has been strongly influenced from the font Helvetica.

Background: Monotype Grotesque got its name purely because of its ‘ugly’ typeface. It was developed around the time when printing machinery was accelerating massively in the design production (late 1920’s). Monotype was created to suit the appearance with the design concepts at the time. It was mainly used for newspapers and large prints. The simple clean lines made it easy to see on computer screens also and accessible still to read at smaller point sizes.

Arial history: it was originally designed also for IBM’s bitmap font laser printers, first supplied with Windows 3.1 in 1992 (It was after replaced with Calibri). It is mostly popular for easy-to-read advertisements of all sizes and diagram annotations because of its narrow width, making it easy to read.

Rates2_1 Rates1_1 Rates3_1


text heading When you look VERY closely, you can see traces of similarities with its original ancestors Grotesque 215. Take the letter ‘T’ for example, the angle at the top of the lower case ‘t’ is similar compared to Helvetica, which is completely cut off.

Note: the width between Arial and Helvetica appear more consistent.


Looking at the letters R, G and C, Arial appears quite different to Helvetica. Using the very small changes, Helvetica appears to have more curves in the lettering and tails in comparison to Grotesque and Arial. The G as an example, Helvetica has a spur that goes into the stem, whereas Arial and Grotesque’s bottom meets the stem at an angle.



CCC_1Oddly, the lower case ‘a’ shows that Grotesque and Helvetica look more similar than with Arial. They both have a tail?!


A lot of designers recommend you steer away from the Arial font and switch to other fonts such as Verdana, Tahoma or Trebuchet MS – mainly because they still look professional but aren’t so harsh and ugly to look at.

Types of Arial font:


Here are a few examples of Arial being used:

Pride and Glory poster

Pride and Glory poster

Jaimie Eddy

Jaimie Eddy






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