Font Challenge

Jan 10 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Today I heard from someone who was complaining that Arial is an abomination. I'm not the biggest fan of Arial either, but I'm superstitious, and most of my successful grant proposals have been written in Arial. So I keep using it. In general I don't like sans serif type, but somehow they never seem to work in grant proposals for me. Manuscripts, that's another story. There I've had luck with a mix of stuff. But back to Arial. Arial was based on the much storied Helvetica, designed in the 1950's. Arial was a knockoff and was one of the fonts bundled in Microsoft Windows 3. While there are differences when you compare both fonts side by side, to me it is very hard to tell, and I bet the same for most folks.

So here's a challenge. Download the linked PDF file and (without cheating) tell me which paragraph is in Arial, and which in Helvetica.

17 responses so far

  • CoR says:

    The 2nd is Arial? I prefer Georgia 11. But NSF won't allow this font.

  • Easy! The top is Helvetica and the bottom is Arial.

    One easy way to tell the difference is to look at the letter "c". In Helvetica, the ends of the stroke are almost exactly horizontal; in Arial, they are at a substantial angle.

    The "a" is also trivially distinguishable. In Helvetica, the end of the stroke at the bottom right curves around and the end is vertical; in Arial, it is horizontal.

  • Ewan says:

    For me, the most easily-identifying features are the punctuation marks; apostrophes and quotation marks in particular.

  • LadyLobo says:

    top is helvetica. 🙂 Recently I found a "game" that tests your Kern-ing ability http://www.computerarts.co.uk/blog/kern-type-kerning-game-112623... Hours I'll never get back, and a high score I never brag about

  • arclight says:

    I'm guessing the upper is Arial and the lower is Helvetica. The upper seems more cramped, though I agree, it's really hard to tell them apart.

    IIRC, sans serif typefaces are better for computer display while serifs make printed text more legible. I'm no designer or typographer, but I read a bit of Donald Knuth's writings on digital typography and the development of TeX.

  • katiesci says:

    I was going to say the top was Arial but the early commenters seem so sure of themselves...

  • Namnezia says:

    So the top is Helvetica and the bottom Arial. I see PhysioProf's point about the tail in the lowercase 'a', but to me the 'c' looks the same, unless I make the text size huge. The capital R seems to be a big difference, but there were none in the passage on purpose. Qualitatively though, they both have pretty much the same look and feel, especially at smaller text sizes.

    Now, bonus points for whoever correctly guesses the source of the text.

  • Sxydocma1 says:

    I can't tell the font, but I think I know the source partially. Seymour and Franny are characters in a series from J.D. Salinger, but I don't remember which book this passage is from.

  • gerty-z says:

    I can see there are differences...but I can't see how one would be an abomination and not the other. I just don't care enough, I guess. And if I get a grant funded you can be sure that I will use the same font on the next one.

  • drugmonkey says:

    .but I can't see how one would be an abomination and not the other

    Is there anything you need to know other than only PhysioProf and his ilk care about shit like this?

  • ecologist says:

    Sans serif fonts are good for big displays of small amounts of text (think, projected slides) and suck for paragraphs of text. Serifs were invented for a reason, and that reason is to make text more readable. Use them!

  • I see PhysioProf's point[.]

    These are not "points". They are facts about the shapes of the glyphs.

  • That kerning game is fucken AEWSOME!!!! I wish they had more than ten words to kern!!

  • Dr. Cynicism says:

    I finally gave up on trying to pick the perfect font for grants. I now just hand write them in blood. For some odd reason, my funding streak has gone way down...

  • [...] on about which font is better, people have strong feelings about what works and which doesn't and these arguments run deep. I will just tell you how I format my grants, I'm sure you can adapt these tips to your personal [...]

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