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LUC DEVROYE


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Vista fonts: a discussion

The typophiles give a thorough discussion, pro and against Microsoft's Vista fonts in 2007. Here are some excerpts:

  • [Stephen Coles in 2008---"pro"] The Vista fonts are hampered by the anti-Microsoft sentiment common among designers. Perhaps there is also a segment of type users who see Colibri and the other C-fonts as made specifically for ClearType -- for the screen -- not for professional print design. Personally, I think the series is one of the brightest things MS has done in years and they continue to school Apple on commitment to typography, but I haven't seen much of the Vista fonts in offline use.
  • [Bill Troop in 2008---"against Calibri"] Many people think Calibri is the best. Here's what I don't like about it. I think the angular o forms impede readability. I think the calligraphic italic forms impede readability. (I am not one of those who thinks that chirographic forms assist readability; I think they impair it. There's a reason why we read type more quickly than calligraphy. It's precisely because type is non-chirographic. The marketing of calligraphic features in type is fine by me -- anything to make a buck -- just don't ask me to take type spin any more seriously than any other kind of spin.) I truly do believe that type destined for the millions should be crystal goblet type. It should be transparent. There should be no cutesy features. Calibri is all about cute. Let's start with the punctuation. The worst feature is the quotation marks, which look like falling snowflakes, not quotation marks. You have to keep asking yourself 'is this really a quote mark?' They're also badly fitted, with 's (quoteleft-s) having a greater gap than g' (g-quoteright) for example. But wait! This font is designed for use with MS Word, a program which declares kerning off by default. With kerning off, there's not just a gap between 's (quoteleft-s) but a river and the font is really a mess. Kerning is being used here to fix bad spacing, a poor design philosophy. The question mark is slightly too large to seem transparent, and the comma is almost as bad as the snowflakes. It's not where you expect it to be, it's not the shape you expect it to be. That's the definition of what cute is and transparent is not. The default g is so clotted there has to be an alternate g. But who is going to figure out how to use it? The ascenders/descenders are misproportioned. For this design, there needs to be fractionally more descender length, even if it has to be at the expense of ascenders. Finally -- for this very brief look, try to type some text using Calibri. One of the most frequent errors you make when typing is one space instead of two or two instead of one. With Calibri, the on-screen representation of the space is too thin. It's impossible to have an intuitive sense whether you have typed one space or two. Somehow, with all the classic Microsoft fonts, you can tell this. At that point I give up - - these guys can't even get the space character right? It's scarcely worth discussing. I realize I'm not going to win any popularity prizes by being so harsh, but I don't think there's any other way to get better type. Who knows? Maybe everyone will get used to this stuff? If they do, no sweat. But to eyes accustomed to the level of excellence that was customary just five or ten years ago, that's a stretch.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html