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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Science behind Fonts

I was always engulfed by a question on why academic and scholastic papers demand Times New Roman as a standard font, and why many publishers abide by it comprehensively.  
While many of us ignore the type of font used in any piece of writing - with that typical intent of focusing only on content and not on how it appears visually- scientifically, it has been witnessed that the visual appearance of the fonts generate much influence on how a document is received as equally as the content itself. Such scientific concepts and knowledge of font designs were conceived by the ancient premiere publishing and printing houses many moons ago. And subsequently, the design of any fonts were considered very seriously on the basis on how it can produce mood and atmosphere, besides being readable and economical at large.
Before the period of global digitalization, history has it that, the only fonts available in the Microsoft Windows 3.1 were Ariel, Courier and Times New Roman. In 1930s, the British based newspaper The Times used a font named ‘Times’, which shortly gathered a massive criticism by Stanley Morrison, a native typographer, for being badly printed and typographically antiquated. The Times has asked Morison to design a better font in which the later with the help of an esteemed advertising designer, Victor Lardent conceptualized the new design of Times Old Roman (the font name referred after the new design) based on 2 major changes:
a) Readability: Morison and Lardent has reduced the space between each letter (technically called as tracking) to make it condensed and readable, besides thinning the intersections of the thicker strokes of each letter to give it a legible look.
b) Efficiency: As a necessity in the newspaper business, to make it more economical, the amount of words to fit on each line and thus on a page was maximized.
Later, this new font made its debut in the issue of The Times on 3rd October 1932 and was popularly branded as Times New Roman thereafter. History has recorded that this font was tested by the ‘distinguished ophthalmic authority’ under the conditions of both natural and artificial light, and confirmed as the most readable font.  
So what makes Times New Roman a standard font for academia in most cases?  
One good reason could be due to its ubiquitousness. Microsoft has included it before the early digitalization and later made it as default font for being widely used typeface across all space. So basically, Times New Roman was granddaddy of the print fonts. Also, this font was readable in a sense that it allowed the readers to stay on line of text or paragraphs for a longer period of time without any difficulty. As much as academic papers are published with an intent to express some findings and impart new knowledge to the readers, fonts such as Times New Roman is more apt and convincing to achieve such academic commitments.
“Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form” – Robert Bringhurst

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