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Last Call for Calibri – Microsoft Updates its Default Font
For the first time in nearly 15 years, Microsoft is updating its default font.
The company recently announced plans to replace Calibri – currently the de facto font for 1.2 billion Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook users.
Calibri has surprisingly modest origins. In 2002, designer Lucas de Groot was contacted and asked to design a monospace and sans serif typeface. He didn’t know who the client was or how the fonts would be used. He quickly cleaned up some existing sketches and sent them off.
It was only later he learned the client was Microsoft – and he was designing what would become the most-used font in the world.
Choosing a default font is the ultimate exercise in pragmatic design. It has to be functional, not flashy. Unassuming, not unconventional. It’s a balance all organizations consider when developing brand standards, and it’s a decision that benefits from careful consideration.
In choosing Calibri’s replacement, Microsoft is bringing some transparency to the process. It’s published five contenders and is seeking feedback via social media. It’s a smart move for a decision as divisive as font choice (don’t get our designers started). There are tried and true best practices when it comes to design, but look and feel will always be somewhat subjective.
The fonts are also available for download, giving typography enthusiasts a chance to use the fonts before weighing in.
That’s critical. You can’t make those judgements in a vacuum. It’s important to see the element in action. What does the font look like on three pages of dense text or as a tiny footnote? What about in a complicated spreadsheet or a bold transition slide in a presentation? Yes it has to look good, but it also has to be functional.