Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 4

I recently received an email from Robin Nicholas, Monotype’s Head of Typography in the United Kingdom, shedding more light on Monotype’s attempt in the 1950s to redesign Monotype Grotesque to satisfy the needs of German and Swiss customers: 

The saga of these fonts [three “New Grotesque” fonts] was rumbling on when I joined the TDO [Monotype’s Type Drawing Office] in 1965, although I did not get directly involved. It began in 1956 with a request from German and Swiss customers for a set of lighter caps for Grotesque Bold (216). An order was issued and a new series number allocated (616). Trials were produced but nothing was approved until 1960 when further criticisms were received from Germany and Switzerland regarding all three weights. New sets of 11 point drawings were produced for all three fonts (Regular 615 and Bold 616) over the next couple of years. Much argument and re-designing ensued until the project was cancelled in 1967.

In 1970 the “New Grotesque” project was brought back to life but with a new objective – to produce a filmsetting version that could be used to counter the clamour for Helvetica. Monotype had Univers that it had co-developed with Deberny and Peignot but more and more customers were asking for Helvetica. Again three new sets of drawings were produced, based on hot metal 10 point but prepared for filmsetting systems. The design was massaged in the direction of Helvetica. This project was also brought to a premature end when, in 1972, Linotype gave permission for Monotype to cut Helvetica.

The events related by Robin took place on the watch of John Dreyfus who was appointed Typographical Advisor to the Monotype Corporation, replacing Stanley Morison, in 1955. The further criticisms that Monotype received in 1960 were presumably occasioned by the appearance of Helvetica from D. Stempel AG. Perhaps that led the corporation to drop the attempt to make a lighter version of Monotype Grotesque 216 and switch to making alternate characters for Monotype Grotesque 215 (as shown in the image provided by Indra Kupferschmid in the previous post on this topic). This is all pure speculation as we have no documents yet pertaining to these events nor any datable images. Perhaps details of the arguments and examples of the redesigning that occurred between 1960 and 1967 will surface.