Web Fonts Grow Up: Web Turns 25

The Web turned 25 this month and many of its original core fonts have “grown up,” gone “Pro” and become Web fonts over the last few years. With the explosion of devices that provide for on-screen reading experiences, these fonts are more relevant than ever.

The “Core fonts for the Web” was a project started by Microsoft in 1996 to create a standard pack of fonts for the Internet, which included TrueType fonts such as the Comic Sans MS, Georgia, Impact, Trebuchet MS and Verdana typefaces, among others. Many designs, such as Georgia and Verdana, were major milestones in the 1990s because they worked so well on screen and were among the first Web-safe fonts. However, with four fonts, the Georgia and Verdana typefaces were limited in their ability to be used in print and other designs.

Since 2010, many new weights and styles have been added to these typeface families, expanding the Web developer’s palette for headlines, subheads, captions and pull quotes. For mobile website displays and printed package labels, added condensed fonts enable designers to work in environments that mandate blocks of text to fit in tight spaces.

Verdana Pro and Georgia Pro

Originally designed by Matthew Carter 15 years ago and adopted by every major computer operating system, the Georgia and Verdana typefaces have evolved to become Pro families. Each comprises 20 weights and features advanced typographic capabilities and extended character sets that will appeal to designers who publish in print, on screen and online.

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Carter teamed up with Tom Rickner of Monotype, who provided technical support on the initial release of Georgia and Verdana in 1996 as fonts for Microsoft’s “Core fonts for the Web” pack. The duo collaborated on the new Pro versions with typeface designers David Berlow of Font Bureau, who led the design effort on Verdana Pro, and Steve Matteson of Monotype, who did the same for Georgia Pro.

New weights for both families include a light, semibold and black, each with matching italics, in addition to new condensed families and complementary italics. All the fonts have been hand-tuned, or hinted, to ensure high legibility on screen, and each of the fonts has an extensive character set to support all Pan European languages, including Greek and Cyrillic. OpenType capabilities include the ability to insert typographic features such as small caps, ligatures and old style figures. The fonts also contain enhanced kerning pair suites.

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Figure 1 & 2: Verdana® Pro Designer Matthew Carter Design Foundry Monotype – Font Bureau

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Figure 3 & 4: Georgia® Pro Designer David Berlow Design Foundry Monotype – Font Bureau

Comic Sans Pro

The Comic Sans typeface was originally designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft based on lettering from comic magazines. It has a friendly, casual appearance and is extremely readable on screen at small and large sizes. Comic Sans Pro features two new fonts (italic & bold italic) and an extensive range of OpenType features and enhancements. The new weights and features were developed by Matteson and Terrance Weinzierl, also of Monotype.

Impact 2010

The Impact design is a realist sans-serif typeface designed by Geoffrey Lee in 1965 and released by the Stephenson Blake foundry in the same year during the height of fashion for bold, condensed display typefaces. Made part of the “Core fonts for the Web” pack, the design has been distributed with the Microsoft Windows operating system since the Windows 98 version.  More recently, Impact has been used extensively in image macros and Internet memes. Its ultra-thick strokes, compressed letterspacing, and minimal interior counterform are specifically aimed, as its name suggests, to add impact. The design has a high x-height, reaching nearly to three-quarters the capital line. Ascenders are short, and descenders even shorter. The face is intended for headlines and has only limited use in text applications.

The design bears comparison with the similarly designed, but narrower, Haettenschweiler typeface, Letraset’s Compacta face, and the Helvetica Inserat typeface from the Linotype library. In July, 2010, an enhanced version of Impact was released, including extensive OpenType typographic features designed by Weinzierl. The typeface’s intricate nested letterforms in the contextual alternate feature make for visually stimulating headlines.

Trebuchet 2010

The Trebuchet design is a humanist sans-serif typeface created by Connare for the Microsoft in 1996. The design takes its inspiration from the sans serifs of the 1930s which had large x-heights and round features intended to promote readability on signs. The Trebuchet 2010 design features an extensive overhaul of the original fonts by Matteson, with two new fonts added to the family (black and black italic). A wide range of OpenType features, including swashes and other delightful flourishes give the Tebuchet 2010 family a breath of fresh air. The addition of ligatures, number forms and spacing, contextual alternatives, stylistic sets and other features give designers more creative freedom.

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Figure 5: Comic Sans® Pro, Impact™ 2010 and Trebuchet 2010

 

 

HOWUBlockAre you craving even more information about type?  Then you won’t want to miss the “Mastering Typography” course with Denise Bosler. In this online course to begin on April 28, you’ll deepen your understanding of type, explore how to use it effectively and more.

 

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