The Past and Present of Web Typography
The core four: Georgia, Verdana, Arial, and Times. Familiar to most, as the web safe fonts. All solid choices for maximum compatibility. Nearly all of computers show them accurately (as shown below).
Update: Type designer Rod McDonald provided corrections to my sloppy wiki-research.
Times New Roman
Being in the spotlight for just short of a century, Times New Roman became ubiquitous. Designed for the British Times newspaper in the early 30’s. It’s popularity in book publishing and wide use paved its way into the digital age.
Rod says: Times New Roman was originally designed for The Times of London by the renowned typographic historian Stanley Morison who employed Victor Lardent to do the final drawings. The fonts were produced by the British Monotype company.
Matthew Carter is one of this generation’s most prolific and best known type designers. His work has changed the face of the web. Subtle variations in x-height, weight, and size makes it better suited for screen presentation.
Rod says: According to Matthew Carter, Georgia owes much of its design to the old British Scotch Romans and to his own Miller typeface. Carter made the serifs considerably heavier to ensure they would ‘hold up’ at small sizes on screen.
Another Matthew Carter creation. This time a sans serif. Much like Frutiger. It’s exceptionally easy to read at small sizes.
Rod says: Matthew Carter’s Verdana is similar in design to Walter Tracy’s 1959 Adsans which was originally designed for use at very small sizes in the classified section of newspapers. Another influence on the design was Carter’s 1977 Bell Centennial, designed for use in US telephone directories.
The result of Microsoft’s prevalence,
and of the original and ever popular, Helvetica.
Rod says: Arial was developed by Monotype for IBM in 1982. The design was based on the old Monotype Grotesque range and was originally called Sonoran Sans. In 1993 Microsoft asked Monotype to provide them with a TrueType sans for their new Windows 3.1 OS. Monotype reworked Sonoran Sans and renamed it Arial. Shortly after its release false stories began to circulate that Arial was simply a ‘knock-off’ of Helvetica.
Want to use another font?
With pressure from designers for more choice, developers have taken up the cause. As a result, font replacement was born. After a web page loads, HTML tags (usually headings) are replaced with either vector outlines or images taking on the dimensions, overlapping, and replacing the original heading.
The following are essentially workarounds as browser technology is slow to adapt and font foundries are weary of internet distribution and piracy. Font replacement on a large scale (body text) is unwieldily by its resource hungry nature. But, for headings, they work splendidly to enhance the look of your site. Here are a few of the most well known…
It’s a Step Forward, but…
In 5 years time, let’s all hope either Microsoft will get its act together with its EOT font format or there’ll be a web Opentype format that everyone agrees upon. But, until that date there’s many a workaround to employ.
Anything I missed to mention? Something to add? Please share below.