People with famous parents start life with a handicap. It becomes
a serious handicap if the parents are famous in a field in which the
child would like to make its own way.
Matthew Carter started with a very serious handicap, for his father,
Harry Carter, was both a great scholar in the world of type and printing,
and a type designer of extraordinary skill. His Cyrillic Baskerville, for
example, will always be a model of grace and scholarship to anybody
who has tried to learn what should be known about cyrillic alphabets.
It is said that Harry Carter learned Dutch on the boat from Harwich to
Hook of Holland, and Hebrew making his way to Palestine in a variety
of planes and boats during the second World War. What is galling
to those of us whose grasp on other European languages is almost
cursory is that Matthew seems to have the same easy facility. What
is not galling to those of us who also have drawn typefaces for various
imaging media (in the kind of vocabulary that finds its way onto the
web) is the breathtaking skill that he shows in making type that
works wherever it was meant to work.
In its proportions and stroke weight, the Verdana
family resembles sans serifs such as Frutiger, and
Johnstons typeface for the London Underground.
But to label Verdana a humanist face is to ignore the
successful fusion of form and function Carter has
achieved. This isnt merely a revival of classical
elegance and savoir faire; this is type designed for
the medium of screen.
The Verdana fonts are stripped of
features redundant when applied to the screen. They
exhibit new characteristics, derived from the pixel
rather than the pen, the brush or the chisel. The
balance between straight, curve and diagonal has
been meticulously tuned to ensure that the pixel
patterns at small sizes are pleasing, clear and
legible. Commonly confused characters, such as
the lowercasei j l, the upercase I J L and the number
1, have been carefully drawn for maximum
individuality an important characteristic of fonts
designed for on-screen use. And the various weights
have been designed to create sufficient contrast from
one another ensuring, for example, that the bold font
is heavy enough even at sizes as small as 8 ppem.
Another reason for the legibility of
these fonts on the screen is their generous width and
spacing. At low resolutions, because of the limited
number of pixels, letters cannot differ very much.
But often the smallest differences can often change
the whole look of a page, or a screenful of type; a fact
demonstrated in the illustration below
Verdana Bold Italic
Microsofts new Verdana typeface family consists of four TrueType fonts
created specifically to address the challenges of on-screen display.
Designed by world renowned type designer
and hand-hinted by leading hinting expert,
Monotypes Tom Rickner
these sans serif fonts are unique examples of type design for
the computer screen.