Luc (as) de Groot in Berlin.
On Thursday, Microsoft announced a recent change to some of its most visible software products. It will choose a new default font for its Office applications, such as Word and Excel. And that means people won’t see as much of the default font since 2007 ̵
The change is another indication that this is not the old Microsoft. Since the measured Satya Nadela replaced the noisy and proud Steve Ballmer as CEO in 2014, Microsoft has become easier to work with partners, strategically adopted third-party platforms instead of stubbornly ignoring them, and has become a great contender forever. expanding the cloud computing business. There may be a change in the appearance of the Microsoft software.
But Luc (as) de Groot, the Dutch designer behind Calibri, was surprised.
“I didn’t expect it to be replaced anymore,” he said in a video interview from his home in Berlin.
He did not expect to be consulted on the solution and said he was pleased that Microsoft was investing in new fonts to make its software more valuable. He believes that the choice to change is more related to contemporary style trends than to improving the readability of the Calibri.
De Groot started working on Calibri back in 2002. An intermediary asked him to come up with a proposal for a mono-spatial font for an unnamed client. He was not informed that the client had sought suggestions from other people. He was also asked to come up with a font without serifs, so he sent several sketches for Caliber in addition to the mono-space work.
The customer turned out to be Microsoft, which accepted both of his proposals, and in 2003 de Groot traveled to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, DC to meet with designers, advisors and members of the company’s printing team.
During the meeting, de Groot said, he argued that the company should include old-style figures – signs of varying heights – to help with the reading, and Microsoft employees agreed.
The five new fonts ordered by Microsoft are available to Word subscribers for Office 365. The first paragraph of text is displayed in Calibri, and the second paragraph appears in the new Seaford font.
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Inventing the name was not easy. For both of its fonts, Microsoft wants names that begin with the letter C.
As Dr. Groot said in an email, “I had suggested Clas, a Scandinavian name associated with ‘class,’ but then the Greek counselor said it meant ‘cracking’ in Greek.” I still like it, but then the Cyrillic wizard said that it means “whore” in Russian, really used as a very common curse. “Microsoft’s legal staff also checked every possible name to see if it was no longer a trademark.
The company coined the name “Caliber,” and when de Groot first heard it, he found it strange. It was similar to Colibri, a genus of hummingbirds. But then Microsoft officials said it had to do with calibrating the rasterizer in the company’s ClearType font rendering system.
After sending Caliber, he did not know how it would be used. At first he heard that he would be included in a programming environment. Only a few years later, he learned that this would happen by default in Office, which has 1.2 billion users. By default, Calibri has worked with lined shapes with the same characters, although users can activate old-style shapes in Word.
Calibri came to millions of computers with the release of Office 2007, inheriting the stable font of 20th century Times New Roman serifs. Soon he was everywhere. It has become a popular choice for resumes. It was used to solve counterfeiting cases and in 2017 was involved in a Pakistani corruption investigation detaining then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Former President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. uses Calibri to launch an email exchange to meet with a Russian lawyer to gather information about Hillary Clinton, who is running for president against Trump in 2016.
Over the years, de Groot has done additional work on Caliber. It came out heavier, added Hebrew support, and three years ago, he said, it introduced a prototype for the Calibri variable font, which includes several styles in a single font file, although Microsoft did not release it. He was working on Calibri updates only two weeks ago.
He then began receiving emails from reporters about the news: Microsoft’s design team posted a blog post Thursday revealing five fonts he had ordered, one of which would eventually replace Calibri. Caliber, they wrote, “has served us well, but we believe it is time to develop.”
De Groot couldn’t help but look at the five fonts. He downloaded them to his computer and tested them.
He said he liked Seaford, a font developed by Tobias Frere-Jones, Nina Stössinger and Fred Shallcrass of the New York studio Frere-Jones Type. “It has a very strong design and I would love to see this as the new default,” he said. “It’s not completely neutral, but I think it’s a very nice design.”
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