A bold new default font era is set to begin. The company has commissioned five custom fonts and encouraged those so inclined to pick their favorite.
As the old adage goes: Change is the only constant in the universe. Turns out, these perpetual transmutations extend through the pixelated ether of our digital age. On Wednesday, Si Daniels, principal program manager of Office Design, wrote a Microsoft blog post about a series of new fonts that will eventually replace Calibri as the company’s next default typeface option.
In a tweet, Microsoft said: “We need to talk. What should our next default font be?” The tweet also included a screengrab of a short letter penned to Microsoft’s soon-to-be ex-default font. The salutation and letter body said: “Dear Calibri, We’ve loved our time together, but we’ve outgrown this relationship.” The closing phrasing was stated as “Love your potential replacements,” and the signature portion of the short letter included the list of the successor fonts.
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The Microsoft release details the rise and fall of other typefaces on its platform: In 2007, Microsoft crowned Calibri as its new default font thereby bringing a close to the end of the Times New Roman era.
“It has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve,” the release said.
To help the company “set a new direction,” Microsoft said it has commissioned five custom fonts and encouraged those so inclined to pick their favorite and voice this input using the company’s official Twitter account. In the interim, Microsoft said it will be “evaluating these five directions over the next few months.”
“Don’t worry if the font you love best isn’t chosen as the next default; all of them will be available in the font menu, alongside Calibri and your other favorite fonts in your Office apps in Microsoft 365 and beyond,” the release said.
Overall, the new font options include Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford and Grandview.
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Michael Worthington, a professor at the California Institute of the Arts, who teaches UI and UX design courses online on Coursera, noted the importance of taking the typefaces on a “test drive” to assess them.
“It’s relatively subjective until you see the typefaces in use — at the right size, in the right environment, in actual use. Otherwise, it tends to be an issue of taste or aesthetic preference,” Worthington said.
Worthington provided insights about each of the potential new typefaces, albeit “without a full test drive,” he noted.
“The weight and tone of them all is fairly similar at a small scale (as in Microsoft’s “we need to talk” Twitter post image), but if you zoom in you can see some of the differences,” he said.
SEAFORD by Tobias Frere-Jones, Nina Stössinger, and Fred Shallcrass
SKEENA by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow
“Skeena’s the most humanist followed by Seaford (which I think is the most beautifully drawn) with true italics rather than just an oblique, and while both have more personality, they also seem like they might be the least utilitarian,” Worthington said.
“They might have the least range, and that’s key for a default font, being OK at a wide range of things as opposed to exceptional at one (i.e. Comic Sans which is the BEST typeface for use in comic speech bubbles and terrible nearly everywhere else),” he continued.
GRANDVIEW by Aaron Bell
“I would dismiss Grandview on the grounds that it’s basically DIN Mittelschrift slightly extended as much as i love DIN it feels like a minor tweak rather than a “new” typeface,” Worthington said.
After these assessments, Worthington said he was left with “two front runners:” Beierstadt and Tenorite
TENORITE by Erin McLaughlin and Wei Huang
BIERSTADT by Steve Matteson
“Both more contemporary sans serifs, über functional, looks like they would work in a number of contexts, solid workhouse typefaces that don’t get noticed so much but they are pretty good at everything they do (hello Helvetica?),” Worthington said.
“Tenorite feels a bit more geometric, I like the true italic (the “a” is always the one to look out for). It feels friendly and functional, which is (I think) what the brief from Microsoft would have been,” he continued.
Worthington described Bierstadt as a “close second,” adding a few notes about his runner-up.
“A little squarer, and (for me) a little more even in texture. and perhaps a bit colder, a bit less friendly but still functional and with a wide range,” he said.