Even Calibri’s Creator Is Glad That Microsoft Is Moving On

All five fonts are now available to use on Microsoft products that are connected to the cloud, and the company is inviting people to give feedback on which they like best. It will announce its selection of the new default later this year. Daniels can’t recall another time that Microsoft has crowd-tested its typefaces this way, but he believes it will lead to a better decision. Plus, providing people with options minimizes some of the pressure. “You give somebody one, then there’s a good chance it becomes polarizing,” Daniels says. “But if you give people five, almost everyone will have a favorite.”

And make no mistake, the public has feelings about fonts. People have already begun weighing in on Twitter, with strong opinions about nearly every option: “The G on Grandview is awesome.” “Maybe not Grandview?” “Awful kerning for Bierstadt.” “Tenorite is too blocky.” Several people raised specific concerns about legibility for people with poor vision or dyslexia. Others wondered why the big fuss over what the text looks like on Microsoft products: “What’s wrong with Calibri? It looks good and works just fine.”

“What’s wrong with Calibri? Nothing,” says Gail Anderson, a designer at the School of Visual Arts. “It’s not a fancy-dress typeface. You don’t need to check the mirror before leaving the house when you’re using Calibri.” The font, she says, doesn’t offend her. “It’s probably just not my first choice.” As for which of the new typefaces she would use instead, she diplomatically declined to choose a favorite.

Tenorite is crisp and circular, with round punctuation marks.
Photograph: Microsoft

Other designers say that Calibri worked well in the context for which it was designed–but now that screen pixel density is no longer an issue, a default font can take more liberties. “Calibri, I think, can be overly dense,” says Tobias Frere-Jones, the design director at Frere-Jones Type, which created Seaford. His new font has wider spacing and more accentuated shapes: The round letters are more round, the square letters more square, so that each letter appears more distinctly in a word or a sentence. “It’s very effective in making word shapes more intelligible,” he says. “And in the last year, as screens became more and more the place where we live, it seemed more urgent to make something that was kinder to our eyes.”

De Groot was surprised by some of the new designs Microsoft chose, which he criticized as chasing typographical fashion trends. “My absolute favorite is Seaford,” he says. “It has a strong voice, which I love. But of course, a strong design voice might also pose a danger. One of the things I tried to do with Calibri is make it kind of neutral.”

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