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Design Web Typography How to Choose and Use Webfonts Choosing a Text Typeface for the Web

Daniel Swan
Daniel Swan
18,227 Points

Arial Webfont vs Arial Desktop

I've noticed a few sites offer specific webfont licenses for arial which is weird because Arial is supposedly already a web safe typeface. Is the webfont version of Arial actually more optimal for web than the Arial most sites default to?

2 Answers

A.J. Kandy
PLUS
A.J. Kandy
Courses Plus Student 12,422 Points

It's the same font, at base, but the web version (in OpenType) has some extra features.

At root, Arial isn't standard on every operating system; Android for instance doesn't include it. Free and open-source systems would probably not include commercial fonts, and since Arial is owned by Monotype, the licensing costs would be prohibitive.

That said, there might be good reasons to use the webfont:

  • You have a web project that depends on Arial across all platforms, for uniform branding
  • Your CSS makes use of advanced OpenType features which might not be available from the desktop font
  • You need to support multiple languages with specialized glyphs, not available in standard or older versions of the font

A very good reason to use Arial is basic readability: It's really nice looking on screen for body copy. However, it's ungainly in print, and doesn't really work for headlines. There are some newer Condensed versions of the faces that are worth looking into, if your design involves tabular data like invoices etc.

Sharon Smith
Sharon Smith
8,747 Points

Personally, I'd stay away from Arial as a typeface for anything-- it's really not that good. I'd recommend something like Calibri, Gill Sans, or Verdana, Futura & Helvetica are classics, of course. Verdana's the one I use the most.

A.J. Kandy
A.J. Kandy
Courses Plus Student 12,422 Points

Agreed. :) I'm not so much of a fan of Gill Sans because of the mismatch between the upper and lowercase (relatively small x-height, harder to read) - it's gorgeous when set in all-caps with letterspacing, or as a titling font, but not so great for body copy. Font Bureau Agenda is a modern take on the same style that's a lot more flexible and has a larger x-height.

Daniel Swan
Daniel Swan
18,227 Points

If I had a choice I'd choose anything else but this client already has their branding set