History of Times New Roman

March 10, 2016

It is more likely than not that you have encountered Times New Roman at some point in your life, whether you have realized this or not. Running as the default of most computer typing programs, Times New Roman has a storied history and its use in everyday life should be understood.

How Popular Type is Developed

In 1929, the Times in London commissioned Stanley Morison, a typographer, to develop a new font for the newspaper when Morison criticized the paper for being extremely out of touch with modern trends in typography. Morison brought on advertising artist Victor Lardent to help create the new letters. Morison and Lardent worked for Monotype, a British font foundry, to complete the project. It is thought that Morison was strongly influenced in his work by Robert Granjon, a 16th-century French typographer, and Frank Pierpont, a typographer also for Monotype that developed Plantin in 1914. Or, interestingly, the lost text samples of William Starling Burgess, a yacht builder from Boston that developed a new font for Monotype, are theorized to have played a role in the development of Times New Roman. No matter what influenced Morison’s design, Times New Roman has played an instrumental role in the dissemination of information. 

On October 3, 1932, Times New Roman was introduced in the Times. For the first time in history, a newspaper designed its own typeface and readers were reminded about the importance of type on a regular basis. In 1941, the American magazine Woman’s Home Companion adopted its use in their newspaper, followed by the Chicago Sun-Times in 1953. 

Since it is developed for newspaper use, Times New Roman had two goals in mind. First, it was meant to be efficient in how information is conveyed, and secondly, easily readable. To accomplish this, Times New Roman is a narrower font. This works for print because it allows printers to add more text per line. In addition, there is reduced spacing between each letter which is contrasted by widened portions of the letters allowing them to stand out in print. For use in shorter lines, it is practical. For printing in books, a wider version was developed for longer lines.

Examples of Times New Roman Text

For a practical font, it is no doubt that Times New Roman serves its purpose! Stanley Morison, referencing his own work, stated about this font:

As a new face it should, by the grace of God and the art of man, have been broad and open, generous and ample; instead, by the vice of Mammon and the misery of the machine, it is bigoted and narrow, mean and puritan.

The popularity of Times New Roman was influenced largely by its consistent use in a daily newspaper. Printers of the day began using the type in large quantities, and as devices for writing have been developed, Times New Roman is oftentimes the default font or one of the most readily accessible. These two combined with one another have established Times New Roman as one of the most popular fonts, even in current day. 

As default as Times New Roman is, it is not without controversy. First, while Times New Roman was created by Monotype, the font design needed to be licensed to Linotype since the typesetting machines used to publish the Times were catered to Linotype. Even now, Monotype sells it as Times New Roman while Linotype sells the font as Times Roman. Secondly, Times New Roman, due to its ubiquitous popularity, is seen almost as a non-type. Its reputation as a default lends designers to consider the font as a non-font choice. Many tend to steer clear of Times New Roman, regardless of its effectiveness in conveying information.

Regardless of any personal opinions of Times New Roman, it is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and long-lasting fonts of the modern age. From its default usage on computers to its appearance in magazines and newspapers of the day, this font has proven to be influential in the way that information is typed and read.