Arial Architects
June 16, 2008, 7:08 pm
Filed under: graphic design | Tags:

Why do so many architecture firms use Arial? For some it’s an ideological decision—based on speed and cheapness and an idea about dumbness in design. For others it’s pure laziness.

Much of the history of Arial has been recounted before, but here is a synopsis: Microsoft bastardized Helvetic to avoid licensing fees. Now it is default on every Windows or Microsoft Office computer, and many architecture firms, perhaps seeking the ubiquity and cleanness of Helvetic, use Arial as their standard fonts. (I know, because I’ve worked in a couple of these offices. There is a moment in the workplace when I ask if there is an office font and someone senior to me proudly says, Arial. Or if they have some slight graphic sensibility, they say Arial Narrow, thinking they are quite advanced in the realm of graphic design.)

Architects, listen up. You’re designers. You don’t have to be cutting-edge graphic designers knowledgeable about arcane font facts, but you should care enough about design to think about how you present yourself. Whether you use the el cheapo Helvetica knock-off from Arial (which kerns horribly) or you use Interstate like Norman Foster or Gotham like Barack Obama, your font choice is part of your image, part of your message, and it is part of how potential clients will judge you. Would you produce default setting architecture, following dimensions and materials purely from Autodesk or, egads!, Sketch-Up? Then, why use Arial??

Just think of Barack Obama. Graphic uniformity helped his campaign. Steven Heller blogs on the New York Times about how well managed Obama’s graphic identity has been. Michael Beirut agrees.

Some consideration of your graphic identity could help you become better architects. If you have an ideological reason, like Rem, to use Arial, then okay, fine. At least have a reason. Give it a few minutes and think about whether Arial makes sense for your approach to architecture.

postscript: Some may wonder about my use of Trebuchet and Verdana on this blog. It’s because blogger gives you so few choices! Until I can figure out how to customize this blog further, this is it. Sorry!


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