Monday, August 17, 2009

Georgia on my mind

This week Georgia is on my mind. No, not the state that gave us the Peter Principle peanut farmer, nor the former Soviet republic that found it impossible to rest peacefully next to a belligerent bear. Actually, I mean the serif typeface family commissioned by Microsoft for Internet Explorer. As Wikipedia notes: “Georgia is designed for clarity on a computer monitor even at small sizes, partially effective due to a large x-height.”

What prompted this is the announcement that the switched to Georgia as their main screen font as part of their website redesign unveiled last week. Of its traditional national rivals, both and also make extensive use of Georgia. In fact, three years ago the International Herald Tribune (the European subsidiary of the NYT) reported on the “Georgia revival” among website designers that included the NYT.

In the print world, the conventional wisdom for decades was that serif fonts are more readable at small sizes than the sans serif fonts. However, in the web world, the old conventional wisdom was that sans serif fonts were more readable, although the recent tide has been tending back toward serif fonts. (Some claim there is no difference).

Still, I recall arguing with a web designer (who, alas, knows less about fonts than I’ve forgotten over the past 25 years) who was sure that Arial was the best way to go. As Will Rogers said decades ago: “It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.”

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