︎ Arial Monoline

Glyphs [︎︎︎glyphsapp.com] is a desktop-based typeface design application that has argueably changed the course by which typefaces are produced and will be produced into the future. It’s influence has been understated to date, but historical lineage will have no choice but to mark it.

Amongst it’s many innovations have been the fostering of an engaged community via the identifying and support of open source type development projects on platforms like Github which has allowed the app to flourish and continue evolving in meaningful ways outside of the confines of larger design software entities.

A key process-orientated innovation has been the encourgaement of a ‘variable’ style of working. The popularity of ‘variable’ typefaces [*See note below] amongst designers and typeface users is still to be proved, but in terms of typeface dev this approach has created a flurry of new developments, reissues and new forms.

Variation in approaches to setting up variable workflows is increasing but at it’s most basic, Glyphs allows a type designer to start with the thinnest weight of a set of fonts and the thickest or boldest weight and weights in between are algorythmically generated (or the font is outputted as variable so usets can select the weights themselves).


The launch of the lastest version of the Glyphs app (version 3) arrived with much fanfare and excitement. I updated pretty much straight away and to test out the various features, grabbed an existing, well established (and, by now, the default choice for many) typeface called Arial to act as test subject.

I wanted to try out the updated variable workflow so set about reducing Arial to it’s barebones in order to create the thinnest weight possible. To do this I used, what is termed, a ‘monoline’—which means linework maintained the same width or thickness throughout. This is rare within type design as variations, however slight, are thought to aid readability. Arial at it’s existing lightest weight still includes subtle variations in line work—so I evened these out.

I realised too that this was a very satisfying way to investigate the structure of various established typefaces (my pursuit of the monoline version of Gill Sans used by British Vogue in the 2000s is documented here [︎︎︎fontsinuse.com]). So I set about creating the boldest width I, that still allowed for a reasonable amount of legibility, along similar lines. The resulting typeface created a jarring sense of familiarity but with a mechanical, further industrialised flavour.


Althought Arial has become ubitiquous, it’s copyright is still fiercly gaurded, so this typeface should be considered an experiment that can’t be made available for redistribution but I did find use for it as branding for a series of live mixtape, style music broadcasts conducted over the new year whilst in lockdown.

Broadcasts were conducted via Instagram Live and archived to Mixcloud. Animated graphics were made to accompany broadcasts using Keynote. You can see some of these graphics here and listen to broadcasts via [︎︎︎mixcloud/sportspanda] or playlists via [︎︎︎2020.01] and [︎︎︎2020.02].

Note: For the unfamiliar, variable fonts are a file format which allows font weights, such as regular and bold, to be ‘tweened’—creating access to every other weight, and/or variation, inbetween.  For some prime examples of variable fonts visit [︎︎︎v-fonts.com]
Status: Unavailable. For personal use only.