After a 14-year run with Calibri, Microsoft decides that it’s time a fresh font replacement be served to its 1.2 billion Office users.
Microsoft recently disclosed that its most prominent software will be getting quite an interesting change; Calibri, longtime default font for Office applications (such as Excel and Word), is about to be dethroned. CNBC says that by switching out the dominant sans serif font that Office users have, since 2007, known so well, the tech giant communicates that it is outgrowing the old Microsoft it once was.
A surprise for the designer
Lucas de Groot, Dutch designer of the beloved Calibri font, was apparently shocked by this news. In a video interview from his Berlin home, he stated that he hadn’t been expecting the font’s replacement. Nonetheless, neither was he expecting the brand to consult him before making such a decision, and is pleased that Microsoft is finding ways to freshen up its look. He believes this change has less to do with the need for a more legible default font, and more to do with staying in touch with today’s styles.
Origins of Calibri
Back in 2002, de Groot was asked by an intermediary to work up a monospace typeface proposal for an unspecified client. Further instructions said to create a sans serif font, prompting him to send a few Calibri sketches along with the initial monospace request.
The client, that just so happened to to be Microsoft, approved of both de Groot’s proposals, and by 2003 he had gone off to the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters to interact with advisors, designers, and typography team members of the brand. He proposed that Microsoft ought to integrate old-style characters of various heights to provide good legibility, and Microsoft employees backed him up.
Microsoft expressed that it wanted font names starting with the letter C. De Groot first suggested “Clas”, only to be informed by an advisor that it translated to “to fart” in Greek. He tried his luck with Curva/Curvae, but was told that it was Russian for “prostitute”, and a generally known swear word.
Eventually, Microsoft decided on “Calibri”, nodding to calibrating the brand’s ClearType font rendering system’s rasterizer. De Groot was unsure of what usage Microsoft had planned for Calibri and learned only a few years after sending it in that it was to be Office’s default font.
Years of widespread popularity and usage never stopped de Groot from improving on Calibri. In fact, he had been preparing updates for it just two weeks ago when he began getting emails on the news.
“Calibri has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve.” Microsoft’s design team published in a blog post that revealed five commissioned fonts, each holding the potential to take Calibri’s place. Among these five fonts, de Groot particularly likes “Seaford”, developed by Tobias Frere-Jones, Nina Stössinger, and Fred Shallcrass. Its “strong design”, in his opinion, deserves to be Microsoft’s new default.
The replacement of Calibri as Microsoft Office’s default font simultaneously seems like a major yet minor change, but it was bound to happen at some point. Speaking of fonts and legibility, those looking for ways to encourage theirs or their loved ones’ young ones to hone their own handwriting and drawing skills (whether or not they have a dream of becoming a font designer someday) can surprise them with a Sunany LCD Writing Tablet or a Crayola Ultimate Light Board Drawing Tablet.