I choose the most popular two typefaces Times New Roman and Arial and then compare their history, usage and the anatomy of anatomize five characters of each to see their differences and similarities.
Times New Roman is a serif typeface commissioned by the British newspaper The Times in 1931, created by Victor Lardent, an artist from the advertising department of The Times. The font was supervised by Stanley Morison, who adopted an older font named Plantin as the basis, but “made revisions for legibility and economy of space” (Wikipedia, ‘Times New Roman’).
Arial is a sans-serif typeface designed in 1982 by a 10-person team, led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography (Wikipedia, ‘Arial’).
Times New Roman is used frequently in book typography, particularly in mass-market paperbacks in the United States. Because of its adoption in Microsoft products, it has become one of the most widely used typefaces in history (Wikipedia, ‘Times New Roman’). The reason why Times New Roman is so widely used is readability. Research about perception and comprehension proved that for text blocks it is much easier to read a font that has serifs in upper and lower case while “Sans serif” fonts are difficult to read in large text blocks, especially in long newspaper columns or book pages.
“Arial is a font that is familiar to anyone who uses Microsoft products, whether on a PC or a Mac” (The Scourge of Arial, 2001). It’s usually adopted in advertising and design.
Anatomy of Five Characters:
The five characters I selected are H, x, l, o, g. I picked H and x because they are letters that determine the cap height and x-height, which is the frame of all characters. Then in the reading, I found the differences of ‘o’ and ‘g’ very interesting so that I included them in the analysis. For the last character, I typed various letters to see which one was most attractive in comparison and finally selected ‘l’.
The most obvious distinction between two typefaces is serif. Times New Roman is a serif typeface, in which we can discover serifs in characters ‘H’, ‘X’, ‘l’ in the picture. On the contrary, Arial is a sans-serif typeface that contains no serifs in all characters. Apart from the distinction of serif, there are much more disparities between the two type face. Let’s explore each character specifically.
‘H’: the crossbar of Arial is longer and thicker than that in Times New Roman.
‘X’: two diagonal strokes are of disparate width in Times New Roman: One is thick and the other is thin. Comparatively, the counterparts in Arial are of equal width.
‘l’: The ascender of ‘l’ in Times New Roman is above cap height while the top of ‘l’ just arrives at the cap height. Also, ‘l’ in Times New Roman is thinner than that in Arial.
‘o’: both ‘o’ fits approximately between x-height and base line. However, the ‘o’ in Times New Roman is of Times New Roman while the ‘o’ in Arial is Vertical stress. Meanwhile, the areas f counters are distinct, with one in Times New Roman bigger than that in Arial.
‘g’: The versions of the lower case g is totally different, with one curly and one ‘open’. ‘g’ in Times New Roman has an ear, a bowl, a loop and a beautiful neck linked each part while ‘g’ in Arial has a big bowl between x-height and base line with an open end. Two-storey italics (g): ‘g’ can be especially useful when designing a wordmark, or any other piece of typography designed to be seen in isolation. Two-storey ‘g’ can be especially useful when designing a wordmark, or any other piece of typography designed to be seen in isolation. Single-storey ‘g’ is easier for children to read and is useful at small sizes when printing on non-porous substrates (credit card backs, pharmaceutical labels, product indicia) (Whiteny).
Generally, characters in Arial are thicker and take more space than those in Times New Roman.
1. Because of readability, Times New Roman fits better in the long articles, such as newspapers and books. Contrastively, Arial is better used in advertisement owing to its clearance and relative big characters. Also, it can be widely adopted in textbooks in primary school.
2. The popularity of typefaces relies on its application on the mass media, especially computer system nowadays. Look at Times New Roman, which was adopted by the most popular media The Times at first and then influenced the public to use or imitate it. As for Arial, due to its installment in Windows system and the wide promotion by Windows, it becomes more and more popular.
3. The nuances in life can make a big difference, just like the distinct applications of ‘g’ and ‘g’. Details decide the quality. That’s the truth.
 Wikipedia, ‘Times New Roman’
 Wikipedia, ‘Arial’
 The Scourge of Arial, 2001
 Whitney, ‘Features’