Forgive me if this gets a bit ranty—type is something I feel passionate about.
I am becoming increasingly, and perhaps irrationally, irritated by the ubiquity of the typeface Arial in business communication. It's not a bad typeface, nor do I really object to its close association with Microsoft. It does grate on my nerves that it is a poor man's copy of Helvetica. A copy that is close enough to fool most people, while lacking all the understated elegance and subtle beauty of its more thoughtfully designed cousin (Helvetica is on the right, by the way):
No, even that is not enough reason to campaign for a ban of Arial. After all, Spartan (one of my favourite typefaces)is a knock-off of Futura. What I really object to is the utter ubiquity of Arial.
Typefaces are the written equivalent of tone of voice. They can be lyrical or straightforward, softly-spoken or bellowing, playful or severe. Choosing your typeface carefully is an important part of communicating your message...so why is it that every single business presentation is in Arial?*
Arial is safe. Arial is sturdy, functional, corporate, and boring. Really, really, boring. Helvetica is a bit bland, to be honest, but at least it has a certain Swiss elegance. Arial is boring and ugly. It's the type equivalent of a 1960s concrete office building.
We can do so much better. On the web we are hamstrung, dependent on the end user to have the typeface we want to use installed on their machine. No such limitation pertains to slideware, in which we can embed TrueType fonts if we need to share the presentation with others or use it on another machine. Complete creative freedom!
So here is a call to arms—discover your typographic voice. Cut loose from the lumpen fetters of Arial and find a font that reflects your individual message and tone. If you need some inspiration, I recommend browsing through myfonts.com. Jos Buivenga, for example, has a range of truly high quality free fonts, all of them brimming with personality.
Isn't that a refreshing change of tone from dull, dull, Arial?
* And why always BOLD...unless you are the sort of pompous dullard that believes talking loudly and monotonously shows how important you are?