Times Roman vs. Times New Roman

The Times (Roman) and Times New Roman typefaces, while similar in name and appearance, are not exactly the same. The Times New Roman on your computer is a Monotype font, and Times is a Linotype font. These two, both of which are found in most font menus, are variations on a theme, so to speak. The two do have subtle differences in design and spacing, so they’re not exactly interchangeable.

A very early front page of The Times (of London) from 1788.

The Origins of the Times font

The original typeface used by the British newspaper, The Times (founded in 1785), wasn’t officially named ‘Times’, but was referred to as ‘the Times font’, or the typeface used by The Times. In 1931, The Times of London commissioned a new text type design from Stanley Morison and the Monotype Corporation, after Morison had written an article criticizing The Times for being badly printed and typographically behind the times. The new design was supervised by Morison, a typographic consultant to The Times (and for Monotype), and drawn by Victor Lardent, an artist from the advertising department of the newspaper.

Morison used an older typeface, Plantin, as the basis for his design, but made revisions for legibility and economy of space (always important concerns for newspapers). As the old type used by the newspaper had informally been referred to as ‘Times Old Roman’, Morison’s revision became ‘Times New Roman.’ The Times of London debuted the new typeface in October 1932, and after one year the design was released for commercial sale.

Times New Roman was originally developed by Monotype for use on their own typesetting equipment. Newspapers of the day also used Linotype equipment, so a version of Times New Roman was developed by Linotype for their typesetters, and became known as ‘Times Roman’. The Linotype version, called simply ‘Times,’ was optimized for line-casting technology, though the differences in the basic design are subtle. The typeface was very successful for The Times of London, which used a higher grade of newsprint than most newspapers. The better, whiter paper enhanced the new typeface’s high degree of contrast and sharp serifs, and created a sparkling, modern look.

Differences between Times Roman and Times New Roman

These distinctions remain today; that is, the Times New Roman on your computer is a Monotype font, and Times is a Linotype font. While these two fonts look very similar, and almost identical, in small sizes, the differences can be seen at larger sizes. Times New Roman has thinner serifs, blunted terminals, rounded ear on the ‘g’, as well as other more subtle refinements. In addition, the swash has been removed from the lowercase italic roman ‘z’. Upon close inspection of the signs and symbols, one notices the thinner, longer dashes – both with tighter spacing (not an improvement IMHO). In addition, it has thinner linear symbols (except for the hyphen which has been made heavier), redesigned @, % symbols, as well as a heavier asterisk.

Both versions look similar at small sizes.

The subtle differences between the two versions can be seen at larger sizes, and are circled above.

Some of the symbols and punctuation were redesigned for Times New Roman, as one can see in the images above. (For the record, I am not a fan of the longer, tighter em dash.)

The swash ‘z’ has been eliminated in the newer versions of the Bold Italic.

Once made commercially available, Times continued to be very popular around the world because of its versatility and readability, and because it went on to become a standard font on most computers and digital printers. While many people still use either version of Times in spite of the thousands of – dare I say better alternatives, one should confine it for print as it is definitely not the best choice for the web, especially for lower resolutions devices. In these cases and when one wants to stick to system web fonts, Georgia is the better choice. It is cleaner and more legible, as it was designed specifically for digital usage.

Bother versions of Times as shown in my Illustrator and InDesign font menu: Times (TrueType) by Linotype, and Times New Roman (OpenType) by Monotype.

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Posted on: August 15, 2018

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community.

5 Comments on Times Roman vs. Times New Roman

  1. So THAT’S the difference between Times and Times New Roman – not renamed for the digital world as I had assumed. Thank you very much for this addition to my (incomplete, I guess) knowledge of typography.
    (I continually amaze typophiles with the differences between Microgramma and Eurostile, and why both must exist, and why neither should have italics.)
    I shall order your book Type Rules!

    You might enjoy my personal design project, this issue featuring the proofreader’s red pencil: https://amperart.com/63-upper-lowercase/

  2. Thank you Ilene, I always enjoy your articles. I am an old graphic designer who started out with phototypesetting and Letraset sheets.

  3. I abhor the Times New Roman percentage symbol.

  4. This is a really interesting write up, Ilene—thanks! I now give the nod to Times over Times New Roman.

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