January 29, 2004

Times New Roman

Just because there’s the word “new” in it, doesn’t make it a “more modern” font.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - In a sign that no matter is too small to affect international diplomacy, the US State Department has issued an edict banning its longtime standard typeface from all official correspondence and replacing it with a “more modern” font.

In an internal memorandum distributed on Wednesday, the department declared “Courier New 12” � the font and size decreed for US diplomatic documents for years � to be obsolete and unacceptable after February 1.

“In response to many requests and with a view to making our written work easier to read, we are moving to a new standard font: ‘Times New Roman 14’,” said the memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Thursday.

The new font “takes up almost exactly the same area on the page as Courier New 12, while offering a crisper, cleaner, more modern look,” it said, adding that after February 1 “only Times New Roman 14 will be accepted.”

“This applies to diplomatic notes,” the memorandum said tersely.

There are only three exceptions to the draconian new typographical rules: telegrams, treaty materials prepared by the State Department’s legal affairs office and documents drawn up for the president’s signature, it said.

The memorandum offered no explanation for the exceptions, leaving foreign service officers to speculate as to whether the White House, US treaty partners and telegram readers are not yet able to handle the change.

from here.

Posted by Karen at January 29, 2004 09:30 PM in humour , typography

“Modern” is probably the single most abused term in the… Modern Age. :-)


Posted by: Hrant at February 1, 2004 06:06 AM

I thought this really was a joke, like AFP stood for “Associated Font Press,” a twist on AP.

Posted by: Cheshire at February 3, 2004 04:35 AM

It is funny. You would think, if anyone can afford a custom typeface, it would be the US government.

Posted by: Karen at February 4, 2004 10:25 AM

Hey, the money spent on a custom face could be used for a couple of pods in a cluster bomb.


Posted by: Hrant at February 5, 2004 01:16 AM

Times New Roman was drawn by Victor Lardent for Stanley Morison in London in 1931, as a historical pastiche. (Elements of Typographic Style)

Courier 12 was designerd by Howard Kettler in 1956, published by AGFA-Monotype. Courier New was designed as a typewriter face for IBM, redrawn by Adrian Frutiger. (www.identifont.com)

I think what the government is identifying as new is a look that is different from what they use, more legible. What is more modern from them entails moving away from the disused typewriter to the computer, without realizing that the Times font historically falls before Courier and stylistically resembles Renaissance letterforms. Times New Roman is a common serifed face, and I would hope the government would have at least better articulated why they preferred the older typeface. Can you imagine the government making use of Mrs. Eaves?

Posted by: Jennifer at February 20, 2004 12:00 AM

Jennifer, for the past few years there’s been a contention that TNR was actually designed by an American naval engineer by the name of Starling Burgess. There was an article by Mike Parker in the APHA (American Printing History Association) journal detailing the various bits of evidence that point to this - it’s a riveting read with many interesting illustrations.


Posted by: Hrant at February 20, 2004 12:18 AM

I’d be interested to read that article. This one by Tom Vanderbilt says that Stanley Morison designed TNR. I just bought A Tally of Types yesterday, along with something by Gill and another font “encyclopedia”.

Posted by: Karen at February 22, 2004 06:54 PM

Do a Find on “Burgess” here:
That issue is a typographic gold mine btw.

A subsequent issue actually contains a long-winded, multi-pronged, frothing rebuttal by various Monotype henchmen, but to me it all has the distinct air of lawyerly smoke & mirrors.

Many people get turned off bigtime by this Burgess business. I once ran into a calligrapher in London, we started talking about fonts (imagine that…), and he ended up saying “Morison’s Times is my favorite”. I didn’t disagree, but did point out that some people actually contest its authorship. He stopped talking to me.

Morison himself was an “untouchable” for the longest time - fortunately no longer. He authored some great stuff, but he didn’t really get type, and too often took credit for the contributions of others. I used to admire him for his one idea that I thought was great and unique: the slanted Roman. But then I found out that many others (including the French, and ATF) has already done that way before! And he must have known…


Posted by: Hrant at February 23, 2004 04:33 AM

I did find the word Burgess in Number 31 and 32 “Mike Parker, W. Starling Burgess, Type Designer?” but not much else. Is there more?

And reading Morison’s chapter on Times New Roman, there was a Morris mentioned somewhere in the middle of the chapter and I have no idea who Morris is.

Posted by: Karen at February 28, 2004 01:26 PM

> I did find the word Burgess

I don’t get it. Do you mean the APHA web page? The article itself is all about the evidence of Burgess having designed TNR.

BTW: Morris, William.


Posted by: Hrant at February 29, 2004 05:43 AM

> The article itself is all about the evidence of Burgess having designed TNR.

Why is that? �Mike Parker, W. Starling Burgess, Type Designer?�, this article?

Posted by: Karen at March 2, 2004 09:45 AM

Mike Parker is the author, and the title (which sounds much more tentative than the article) is “W. Starling Burgess, Type Designer?”


Posted by: Hrant at March 2, 2004 11:38 AM

Stupid. Courier is a typewriter-font, a font for movie manuscripts mm. Monaco or something like that had made more sense

Posted by: pernille at March 4, 2004 01:02 AM

Ha ha. Monaco used to be my favourite font. This was back when I was “designing” the faculty magazine and newsletter. I don’t remember why I found it so cute.

Posted by: Karen at March 4, 2004 04:16 PM

A short history on Times New Roman.

Posted by: Karen at June 14, 2004 11:29 AM

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