Branding with Arial

06 Oct 2005

Many before me have expressed their feelings about Arial, and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing how it’s a badly made derivative of Helvetica and Grotesque. You all know that to use Arial in print, means that you may as well go the whole hog and use Comic Sans.

However, over the last 4 years I have come across too many ‘branding guidelines’ where the company’s typeface specified has been Arial. Not by CEO’s or administration staff, but by the “creatives” that the company hired! In some cases, it’s been respected, supposedly experienced branding specialists.

Arial is the new company font!

There can be only one reason for this, Arial’s ubiquity is seen as an advantage. Why pay for a new typeface, when everyone has got a copy?! No need to install either! It amazes me that designers make such decisions, but it has happened more time than I’d like to remember.

Aside from the usual arguments, my main reasons for not using Arial in company branding are:

  1. Its ubiquity is its downfall. Its bloody everywhere. Go to the bother of creating print material using Arial, and it will look like something your dad printed out from his PC. (For some charities, this is a positive boon though. If it looks as if you’re spending too much money on the magazine, regular givers will take their money elsewhere! Seriously.)
  2. With no proper italics, the oblique version of the font has to be slanted. Not a a true italic, as this article shows. Even uglier!
  3. As a web font is where Arial works best, not in print, and certainly not as the chuffin’ branding.

So how do we turn this around? For some clients (Charities spring to mind immediately) cost is the major factor. We need a well designed typeface family, containing the 4 basics – Roman to Bold Oblique, thats very economical to buy in either small or large quantities. Do you have any suggestions that fit the bill?

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