Consolas

In 2002, Microsoft® put together a virtual team of type designers and consultants to develop the ClearType® Font Collection, a series of multi-language system typefaces to make full use of the superior rendering qualities of ClearType. This technology, “a very neat trick to increase the resolution of screen hardware using software alone”, was originally developed for e‑books by Microsoft’s Bert Keely and Bill Hill.

The ClearType Font Collection was presented to the public in 2004 and became the typographic core of the Windows® Vista operating system and the MS Office suite. Besides Luc(as) de Groot, the type designers invited included John Hudson, Jeremy Tankard, Gary Munch and Jelle Bosma. Gerry Leonidas was an adviser for Greek and Maxim Zhukov for Cyrillic.

Big and bigger

Work on the individual designs began in late 2002. In January 2003, the in-house coordinators and independent designers met at Microsoft’s headquarters. All six Western typefaces in the collection were to be developed simultaneously in three scripts (Latin, Greek and Cyrillic) with the same robust glyph set for all. As the typefaces were intended for text setting, not as display faces, most of them included fewer stylistic alternates and special features than a sophisticated display or script face might. The exception is Luc(as) de Groot’s Calibri, which is suited for both text and display settings, and is exuberant with variants and logotypes and extra characters such as a suite of directional arrows.

The first typeface Luc(as) was invited to work on was Consolas, a monospaced font (a face in which all glyphs have equal width). Intended for use in programming environments and other circumstances where a monospaced font is required, Consolas has proportions that are closer to normal text, and is therefore more reader-friendly than many other monospaced fonts. OpenType features include hanging figures or lining figures; slashed, dotted and normal zeroes; and alternative shapes for a number of lowercase letters, notably the most problematic character in any monospaced font, the “i”. The look of the text can be tuned to personal taste by varying the number of bars and waves in these letters. De Groot teamed up with a programmer to test the use of Consolas as a font for coding. “Having a programmer involved,” says Luc(as) with a smile, “I could preview hardcore use on the light-weight notebook chosen to represent his species’ preferred tool.” As the default monospaced font in Windows Vista as well as the Office Suite, Consolas became the de facto successor of the ubiquitous Courier.

Later, Luc(as) began working another typeface for Microsoft: Calibri. You can read about its development here.