All Hail Georgia

February 4, 2009 | Design Trends, Web Design

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The font that is.

If you haven’t noticed, it’s the hip new font on the block. Suddenly designers have a serif typeface option that is actually decent.

The traditional serif / sans serif split

As designers we are all schooled in the traditions of typesetting, and by this I mean print-based typesetting. In design school or in our early career we learn that serif faces are more readable for long blocks of type and sans serif is better for headlines and subheads. This is because the serifs on fonts help the readers eyes follow each line of type horizontally across the page. On the other hand, when serif type is made bold the serifs fill in and lose their shape so sans serif types are better for bold applications such as headlines.

An example of text set in the font Georgia

An example of text set in the font Georgia

Serif / sans serif on screen

In the early days of the web we were given very limited fonts choices. For a while it seemed like we had Arial, Verdana and Geneva on the sans serif side, and only Times on the serif side. The sans serifs were adequate; probably not any designer’s favorite sans serif font but usable. However, Times when viewed on-screen was horrible. The pixel-based serifs looked blurry or choppy. So, the result was many web sites that only used sans serif type.

Finally, a decent serif choice

Times, 48pt. E

Times, 48pt. E

Georgia, 48pt. E

Georgia, 48pt. E

Now with Georgia as a common system font, designers have a serif option that is readable and pleasant to the eye. And I’m seeing it everywhere. It seems to be filling this thirst that both designers and viewers had for a non sans serif (is that a double negative?).

Compared to Times, Georgia has a much chunkier serif style. Times is considered Old Style whereas Georgia is closer to an Egyptian style, slab serif. It makes sense to have the serifs larger and better defined so they hold up when anti-aliased on a pixel-based screen.

What’s next?

I’m interested to see what fonts come along next. Personally, I think there is a need for a sans serif font with a decent italic version.

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