Type Battle 36 // Fix Arial

Justin Styler's picture


Arial was created as a substitute for Helvetica, but most graphic designers consider it a poor substitute, and avoid using it if they can. 

The challenge is to redesign Arial, perhaps with small changes, perhaps with major changes, but to make it into an alternative to Helvetica that a designer could love, maybe even prefer. Making it look like Helvetica is not allowed. Making it more easily distinguished from Helvetica is a plus. Just as Arial's metrics are identical (or nearly so) and its weight and proportions similar, so should the "fixed" version.

Winner take all, no holds barred. May the best designer win.


- Image size: 550 width x 400 height. 72 dpi*
- Color: Black and White
- Format: JPG or PNG (make sure there are no spaces in the name)

*Please try to keep your file sizes to a minimum! 50k per file max.


This is your chance to stretch your type muscles on a weekly basis. You have one week to create and submit your entry. Anyone may submit a design response to the challenge. You may enter as often as you wish. Post anytime. Critiques and comments are welcome throughout the game, from participants and spectators alike. Smack talk is encouraged.

As with any street battle, there is no panel of judges and no prize — only the ability to call yourself the best on the block.

Link directly to this battle: http://www.typophile.com/battle36
Link to the battle directory: http://www.typophile.com/typebattles

*Thanks to Mark Simonson for this week's battle idea!

Bendy's picture

Wow, Randy, I love your entry. I don't think it's boring at all.

Sindre's picture

I'd replace Arial with your version any day, Randy. This has great potential, you really should develop it into a full font.

eliason's picture

and the letter is too wide. Fix those two issues, and you have a credible R

But fix the width and you've departed from the premises of this battle...

Bendy's picture

I read the instructions as meaning only the metrics can't change?

Randy's picture

Disqualified on a technicality (or nearly so)!

Rasendyll's picture

Nachos, Arial Slablar is a great effort..... temps me to expand my sample of "Arialplate"...well done!

Roger S. Nelsson's picture

My quick attempt to diversify Arial a bit...

(A quickie might not be as fulfilling as the real deal, but at least it's _something_ ;)

dezcom's picture


Mark Simonson's picture

Taking the plunge, eh Chris?

eliason's picture

It's a nice shape, but I'd bring in that tail a little.

dezcom's picture

Yes, there is something fishy about the counter space above the tail. ChrisL

Nachos's picture

Rasendyll - Thanks! The instructions do mention however that this fix should be made "an alternative to Helvetica that a designer could love, maybe even prefer" whereas my take seems more like a display font and would probably not reduce to text size very well. Then again, I'm pretty sure we may have a difficult time convincing any designer that use Helvetica religiously to prefer a re-vamped version of Arial :)

Mario Amaya's picture

I did just that in September 2007. Look at those blog posts (in Portuguese):


I boldly called the project "Arial Corrected". Fellow typographers here in Brazil were afraid of intellectual property conflict, so I changed the name to "Aerial", then "Ariel" (both already in use for commercial typefaces) and finally "Work in Progress" (only a dumb placeholder name).
In its present state, the changes are still subtle. It's basically Arial minus all those silly oblique endings; straightened R, K, G, Q and a; rounder, less squarish curves; better diacriticals. It became somewhat more like Univers rather than Helvetica.
But the gist of the current challenge is different. People here want to redesign it. My original proposal was to "fix" Arial only where it bothered me the most, improving it without messing with it too much. But I know I will not be satisfied unless I redesign every glyph from scratch, maybe including some optical effect such as stylized ink traps.
The Black weight was the starting point because it is the most popular of ANY typeface among common people in Brazil. Everywhere you go, it's impossible to avoid coming across multiple instances of Arial Black, usually set in CorelDraw and crudely compressed or expanded to fit the available space. It's an epidemic. We really need to do something...
Corbel really seems to be a reinvention of Arial. There is also a free Linux typeface that was specifically designed to substitute Arial. It's called Liberation Sans.

Rasendyll's picture

Nachos, I suspect much the same is true of my brief attempt-we're probably both tecnically outside the rules. As you say though, I doubts many designers will be persuaded to use an Arial revamp in place of Helvetica. Be it said, I'm a fan of Gill Sans mytself...

Randy's picture

For those interested, the fixation process continues: http://typophile.com/node/56284

Zara Evens's picture

Randy, you consistently throw down great work.

dezcom's picture

So Arial Black corrected is Univers 75?


eliason's picture

Recently overheard:
Woman on mobile phone: They named her Arial. (pause) Yes, like the typeface, but it’s a really nice typeface.

Jared Benson's picture

Couldn't agree more. I'm a fan, Randy.

EsquilloRepublic's picture

Wow, This is quite a fun thread. I too just registered after checking out this challenge.

C.kotylak's picture

ugh that wasn't easy, and I didnt even do to much. I think if I had the choice of the old Arial or my new "and improved" I'd stick with the old. haha

Mark Simonson's picture

Spacing doesn't look too good. I think the Z is upside down, too.

Francisco Freitas's picture

registered for an account after seeing this thread

working on a version right now

it's Arial with hints of Frutiger/Helvetica :)

Francisco Freitas's picture

PS. hope i'm not late to the party

hrant's picture

Arguably a fixed Helvetica is a fixed Arial. And that's been done in style: Unica.
Is it too far from Helvetrial to count? The further the better!


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