Co.Design

Watch: Famous Designers Disown The World's Most Recognizable Typeface

A short film explores the history and future of Times New Roman, a legendary typeface no one wants to touch.

Since its creation in 1931, Times New Roman has risen to become the world’s most famous typeface, so much so that even non-typography nerds can reliably name it. But as a new short from The Times' Unquiet Film Series reveals, most contemporary designers rarely use it, unless they're making a kind of meta statement about typography.

In this cinematic exploration of Times New Roman, designers like Marina Willer, Andy Altmann, and Neville Brody are largely irreverent towards this king of serifs. They all have respect for the font's longevity and history, and some sing its praises—it’s "robust," "proud," "classic," and "You can use it in any context, and it still has meaning," as Times Design Editor Matt Brown says. But others are less enthused, calling it "boring" and "quintessentially British." Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates says it looks "like an accountant in a suit." Despite its persisting status as Microsoft Word's default font, and heavy use in print and digital publications, Altmann says he recently touched it for the first time in 27 years, and only as a "subversive" move.

Monotype's type director Dan Rhatigan argues it's falling out of favor because it was designed for readers, not designers. It has become the font of laypeople, and no longer indicates sophistication, which is ironic because it was originally conceived as a curative for unsophisticated design. After Stanley Morison, typography consultant of The Times, penned a letter criticizing their lousy visual presentation, The Times challenged him to improve on it, and he collaborated with graphic artist Victor Lardent at the English branch of Monotype to create the font. "It was a milestone in newspaper design history," Rhatigan says. It made the newspaper as good visually as it was editorially.

Despite 75 years of loyalty, The Times itself ditched the font in 2006 and started printing in Times Modern, a slightly more angular iteration of the classic typeface. Could we be seeing the last days of the Times New Roman empire?

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4 Comments

  • Its a great face to work with - and actually the letterforms are quite elegant. If you can make something look good in Times then you can make it look good in anything. Its great to test your skills with. Its also easy to read. Negative comments about any typeface show amateur skill and no passion for graphic design - nor its most important component - typography.

  • 41a8bd20

    Overwhelmingly, most people use the default type in whatever program they are operating -- Arial is most popular, then probably Geneva and Times New Roman would be follow somewhere along with Helvetica and Lucida. This shows complete amateur skill and no passion for graphic design, as most people don't even understand graphic design, let alone care one pixel about it. Unfortunately, a great number of corporate executives think it is de rigueur to choose a company type for business-wide use that is ultra-conventional and that can be found freely on almost every computer in the world -- leading to conservative, close-minded corporate design. A perfect example of poor corporative design decisions is the hideous and widely-derided Trump logo -- they used 'Stymie' because they hadn't time to think about what to use, and it has stuck till today. As for Times, like Courier it had it's time in the spotlight -- it's retirement is long overdue, and there are so many beautiful alternatives!