Tedium

When we were a teenager putting together our first design portfolio, back in the days of rubber cement and zip-a-tone, we were obsessed with Times New Roman. We knew it was prissy and joyless, but we didn’t mind. We were prissy and joyless ourselves. We loved its air of strict, unbending neutrality, and we bought sheet upon Letraset sheet of it and used it for everything we could. But as we grew older and learned a bit about letters, we realised that it actually wasn’t very well made. This is not surprising, since TNR was art directed by Stanley Morison, a man who never pretended he could draw, and drawn by nobody in particular. An advertising lettering artist named Victor Lardent did the initial concept art. This was then turned over to the 1930s hive mind—the Monotype Drawing Office—and expanded into a range of weights and widths with no one, apparently, talking to anyone else throughout the process. TNR did its job as a modern newspaper type brilliantly without ever actually being any good. It subsequently became numbingly ubiquitous because it was less trouble to use it than not, and at last was shunned by right-thinking typographers everywhere, or at least by us. But recently we’ve come to find something heroic about TNR’s reticence, its dowdy elegance, its calm, inflexible unwillingness to please. So we’ve redrawn it from scratch as a natively digital typeface for what we still like to think of as the 21st century, with unlumpy curves and some vague notion of organic unity and an italic that isn’t quite so Microsoft Executives Dancing. This is Tedium, the face we saw in our mind’s eye long ago when we looked at TNR. We hope it leaves you as cold as it leaves us.

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