Ahmed: Get with the Times, New Roman

Here’s a little secret: I mostly judge a book by its cover — despite what I’ve been taught in school. More specifically, I judge the font used on the cover. So trust me when I say that even if a book adorned with Comic Sans is a real page-turner, I just won’t be able to take it seriously.

As you may have noticed by now, I love type. One could say I’m even a little obsessed with it. But being a graphic designer by profession, I feel I have to be. I have to pay attention to the minute details others may regard as unimportant.

I’m here to tell you type matters and has a great impact conveying messages, despite what the majority of the human population thinks. Each font embodies character, not just literally, but metaphorically.

For instance, what comes to mind when you think of, say, Comic Sans? Would you use it in your resume if applying to a high-power, corporation? I don’t think so.

As of this very moment, I am typing this article up in Quicksand — one of my new favourite fonts. Quicksand’s aesthetics and ‘personality’ do not bore me — making me stare endlessly at the screen until I subconsciously log on to Facebook — only to realize I’ve lost 30 or so minutes of my precious time.

Quicksand, in other words, is not Times New Roman.

Times New Roman, however, is the story of my life.

As an MIT student, my daily schedule is comprised of endless essay-writing, and having to submit everything in Times New Roman doesn’t help. Over the years, I have developed a distinctive type of abhorrence for it and after doing a bit of research, I think I know why.

Times ‘New’ Roman was designed in the 1900s by a guy named Stanley Morison. Morison had designed this slightly narrow font to save space on newspapers to be printed by the archaic printing press.

Over the years, it has been changed around from Times to Times New Roman, but I honestly don’t think it’s new enough.

We have entered into a virtual age beyond the printed word — an age in which people prefer to read statistics through a high-quality infographic rather than a table created in Microsoft’s 1999 version of Excel.

But, sure, if the public wants practical, let’s create everything in black and white. Let’s all eat the same kind of food. Let’s all speak the same language. Let’s all use the same font.

We, as university-level students, should be able to express ourselves freely whether it be through the way we dress or the fonts we choose to employ into our professional writing.

Isn’t university ideally supposed to liberate us through the power of knowledge? Transform us into well-informed citizens of the world? Guide us to find our voice amongst a vague sea of perspectives?

If so, why must we be standardized through typeface?

Who exactly is the authority which commanded the academic ‘Times New Roman rule’ for the years to come?

Now, logically speaking, and setting aside all forms of designer-bias, I acknowledge some of the logical arguments which people make in regards to conforming to this typeface: “It’s easy to read.” “What if people use large, spaced-out fonts to increase page count.” “What if someone uses Wingdings?”

I acknowledge these concerns. So perhaps, if we were to compromise, I would ask that Times New Roman be revamped and manipulated in terms of its aesthetics. That it understand the needs of the constantly changing world it always talks about, and have itself a little makeover.

And then perhaps I (along with many other designers) could see potential in it being implemented in more than just essays.

Meanwhile, I wish Times New Roman would just get on with the times.

Naira Ahmed is the graphics editor for Volume 106 of The Western Gazette and is currently enrolled in her third year of an Honours Specialization in Media, Information and Technoculture. She loves typography, fair-trade products, and Post-It notes.