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Guerrilla pixels


In a daring daylight raid, elements of the Microsoft Typography team carried out an action targeted to advancing the cause of macro-typography and raising the visibility of fonts in the most literal way, says our anonymous informant.

Since the Microsoft Typography team, along with the rest of Windows International, was moving to a new building on the Microsoft corporate campus over the weekend of December 12, it seemed only appropriate to make a visible statement about the importance and ubiquity of type in the visual environment. Through the use of six-inch-square pixels cut out of sticky-backed black vinyl (a technique used previously for an installation at the Design Commission during TypeCon Seattle), these large-scale representations of bitmap characters from the Verdana and Georgia type families appeared without warning on the walls of the new building. This was reportedly achieved without a single X-acto-based industrial accident.

Verdana and Georgia were originally commissioned by Microsoft for onscreen reading of text. The way they were designed was the opposite of the usual process of designing type for the screen. Instead of creating outlines and then hinting the outlines (giving them rules to follow when turning into bitmaps at small sizes), type designer Matthew Carter started by designing the bitmaps – the end result that he wanted to see at each size – and then worked with hinting wizard Tom Rickner to create outlines and hinting that would achieve those shapes. The letters of the wordlet “typo” on the wall of Building 9 are taken from the bitmaps of 10pt Verdana and Georgia (in a mix of styles) at 96dpi. (Can you identify which letters are from which font, and in which style?)

The first versions of Verdana and Georgia were released in 1996; they now represent an early stage in the development of digital type at Microsoft. What will it look like when the MST commandos attempt to represent grayscale hinting and ClearType subpixel rendering at wall-size scale?

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