Microsoft is introducing five new Office fonts and is leveraging the power of social media to find out which font should be the default one. In a tweet, Microsoft said: "We need to talk. What should our next default font be?" This was accompanied by a picture with the letter penned by the five new fonts and addressed to the font Calibri.
"We have loved our time together, but we have outgrown this relationship," the letter said and was signed off by the next potential default font - Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford, and Grandview. Nonetheless, Microsoft reassured users that Calibri will always remain available even though it is no longer the default font.
The tweet garnered 3,376 likes, 748 quote tweets, and 557 retweets at the time of writing, with some users casting their votes for Tenorite, Grandview, and Bierstadt. Meanwhile, one said Calibri is an excellent font and that the changes made for change's sake have "massive accessibility consequences". Another user decided to be cheeky and said Chiller should be the default Microsoft font.
Brands have also jumped at the chance to share their thoughts. Web browser Opera responded with the expanding brain meme, which according to Dictionary.com uses a sequence of images to show various stages of spiritual or mental enlightenment. In the meme, Arial is depicted to be the lowest form of enlightenment followed by Times New Roman, Impact, and finally Comic Sans.
Meanwhile, Visual Studio Code, a source-code editor developed by Microsoft, chimed in with "Cascadia Code", a monospaced font launched by Microsoft in 2019 that is used in programming.
At the same time, Crucial Memory, a brand under Micron, decided to be cheeky and asked Microsoft when it is bringing back Times New Roman as the default font, hashtagging its tweet with #makefontsgreatagain. In response, Microsoft said: "April 31st".
Separately, Microsoft interviewed the five designers to help bring the fonts' nuances and unique personality to life. The Tenorite font by Erin McLaughlin and Wei Huang, has the overall look of a traditional workhorse sans serif with a warmer, more friendly style. The font will not have a serif (stroke at the ends), like Times New Roman. Elements such as large dots, accents, and punctuation make Tenorite comfortable to read at small sizes onscreen, and crisp-looking shapes and wide characters create a generally open feeling.
"After years of Calibri, we were craving something very round, wide, and crisp, and the geometric genre felt like the right direction," Erin and Wei said. "We both love the circular forms and sturdiness of Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir. But because customers read and write long paragraphs of text within applications like Microsoft Word, more generous character spacing is helpful. The Tenorite fonts aim to solve this problem," they added.
They believe the display styles of Tenorite are much "narrower" and that its tighter-fitting allows for more words to fit on a line and is great for use in PowerPoint presentations.
The Bierstadt font designed by Steve Matteson is said to be a precise, contemporary sans serif typeface inspired by mid-20th-century Swiss typography. The font has a versatile typeface that expresses simplicity and rationality in a highly readable form and a notably clear-cut with stroke endings that emphasize order and restraint. "Bierstadt’s systematic design contains organic touches to help humanise digital environments and soften the regimented order of grid typography," Matteson said.
Meanwhile, the Skeena font by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is said to be a “humanist” sans serif based on the shapes of traditional serif text typefaces. Its strokes are modulated between thick and thin and a slice applied to the ends of many of the strokes. Microsoft said on its website that Skeena is ideal for body text in long documents, as well as in shorter passages often found in presentations, brochures, tables, and reports.
Hudson said: "Skeena is a fresh take on sans serif, a genre that has been dominated in the past decade by neo-grotesques and geometrics. We wanted to create a humanist sans serif with generous proportions and a higher than usual stroke contrast."
Additionally, the Seaford font by Tobias Frere-Jones, Nina Stössinger, and Fred Shallcrass is a sans serif typeface that is rooted in the design of old-style serif text typefaces.
"At the start there was just a broad description of a personality - comfortable, warm, inviting, animated - so we began by studying the overall movement of old-style serifed faces. We hoped to create the same, familiar kind of warmth, but without the serifs," Frere-Jones said.
Stössinger said: "To pinpoint the kind of familiarity and comfort the typeface should evoke, we also looked at pictures of old armchairs: in chair terms, we were going for a practical interpretation of a beautiful family heirloom; durable upholstery, nothing overtly plushy or nostalgic."
Lastly, the Grandview by Aaron Bell is a sans serif typeface derived from classic German road and railway signage, which was designed to be legible at a distance and under poor conditions. Microsoft claims it is designed for use in body text but retains the same qualities of high legibility, with subtle adjustments made for long-form reading.
"Grandview preserves the voice of the original and works exceptionally well for long-form text settings. I’m excited to see how the community engages with it, particularly because the mechanical style of DIN is popular across a wide range of design implementations, from data visibility and gaming to document settings," Bell said.
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