When talking about different types of fonts, there are those fonts that were created for print materials, and then there are those that were developed specifically for on-screen use. As more and more items have gone digital, some of these created-for-the-screen fonts have gained traction. Verdana is a font that was designed for use on-screen, and it has grown in popularity over the years.
Some believe that the name Verdana was inspired by the region around the Microsoft headquarters, which is lush and green. The word “verdant” means “something green,” and Verdana is a play on that word. It is also said that one of the people on the Microsoft team who commissioned the font had a daughter named “Ana” and that brought out the “ana” portion of Verdana.
The growth of the Internet saw the need for on-screen fonts that looked good, such as Arial and Verdana. Verdana was created by Matthew Carter and is considered a humanist sans-serif typeface. Microsoft Corporation commissioned the font. Some additional hand-hinting was added by Monotype’s Thomas Rickner. The Verdana family burst onto the scene on July 8, 1996. Since then, it has been included in all releases of Windows.
The whole purpose of Verdana is legibility even at smaller sizes on low-resolution computer screens. Even though screens have more advanced resolution these days, it is not a perfect technology, and Verdana is still popularly used in design work.
The Mechanics of Verdana
The pixel patterns of Verdana have been carefully hand-crafted. This ensures that readers can tell the difference between letters that are often confused at smaller sizes. Think the i, j, l and the number 1. The font is also a tad heavier to make sure the weight is readable even as small as eight pixels.
The font is said to have some characteristics of Frutiger. Some of the features of Verdana include large x-heights, wider typeface, wider spacing and bigger counters — spaces inside partially closed letters (c, s). All of these elements work together to make this font readable even at extremely small sizes.
Some additional distinctive features of the typeface include a square dot over the lowercase “i”. The lowercase “j” is one of the few letters within the typeface that does have a serif on top. The capital letter “Q” has a tail smack on the bottom center of the circle portion of the letter. The upper case “E” has straight vertical and horizontal lines.
What Does the Font Imply?
Verdana isn’t a particularly exciting font, but it is a very functional one. The wider typeface can create issues, however. For example, if a page is designed with Verdana and the person viewing it does not have the font on their computer, it can come off looking very odd because of the wider typeset of the letters of this typeface.
Designers don’t particularly hate or love this font. However, it is one that you should keep in your repertoire because it is so legible on computer screens.
Additionally, the negative space inside some letters, such as the lowercase “b” add to the informal look. The letters are very similar to the style students learn to print letters in primary grades, making the font easy to read and simplistic in nature. Even the italic version of the font is very simple and only slants ever so slightly to the right.
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Where It’s Commonly Found/Used
Verdana is used on numerous websites, in emails and online everywhere. It is one of those fonts that people either find useful or despise. Delta Air Lines used Verdana for their logo in 2008. IKEA used Verdana in their online catalog in 2009, creating a huge stir over the choice, which has been dubbed Verdanagate.
Some even go so far as to say that Verdana is destroying the planet because it takes up about 20% more space than a font such as Arial and thus uses more paper. Of course, since Verdana is used most frequently online, this argument may not hold water, but it does show the level of disgust some designers feel for the font. These critics point out that screen widths are much wider today than when the font was created. So the need for the wider typeface is no longer as necessary.
Those who frequently use Verdana, however, point to its ability to easily translate into multiple languages as one of the positive aspects of the font. These people note that Verdana is meant to be used online. So arguments about it not looking good in print are moot. They do admit that the font looks better in smaller sizes than larger sizes. It’s because of the wider footprint of the font and the fact the width increases as the size of the font increases.
What Should It Be Used For?
Verdana can be used for any online purpose. It works particularly well with low-resolution devices including laser printers. However, for offset printing or printed documents, it may appear a bit fuzzy, so it is probably best to go with a different font in those cases. Tahoma can be used as an alternative.
Microsoft’s own managers have indicated that the font doesn’t work well in eBooks, though, and indicate that they’ve chosen other fonts for Microsoft eBook releases. If you are formatting a book or manual, you may want to shy away from Verdana. Primarily due to its width. This can throw off the formatting and create long, strange looking lines.
Love it or hate it, Verdana is in such wide use on so many different computer systems. It is certain to stick around for many years to come. Because it is such an easily-read font, even at the smaller sizes, it is also likely it will continue to dominate the Internet for the foreseeable future. Those who argue against this font may be fighting a losing battle. Those who love Verdana are just as passionate as those who hate it.