State Department to ditch Times New Roman font, adopt Calibri

0 12

Opinion

The US State Department is going sans serif: It has instructed staff at home and abroad to phase out the Times New Roman font and adopt Calibri in official communications and memos, in the effort to help visually impaired employees.with reading difficulties or other difficulties.

In a cable sent Tuesday and obtained by the Washington Post, Secretary of State Antony Blinken ordered the department to use a larger sans-serif font in high-level internal documents, and gave his offices domestic and overseas of the department until February 6 “accept. Calibri as the default font for all requested papers. “

“The Times (New Roman) are a-Changin,” read the subject line.

Blinken’s Cable said the move to Calibri will make it easier for people with disabilities who use certain assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to read department communication. The change was proposed by the office of the secretary of diversity and inclusion, but the decision has already ruffled feathers among beauty-conscious workers who have been typing the Times New Roman for years in cables and memos from distant embassies and consulates around the world.

“A colleague of mine called it sacrilege,” said the Foreign Service office in Asia who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy changes. “I don’t mind the decision because I hate serifs, but I don’t love Calibri.”

At institutions like the Pentagon, the bureaucratic currency is fighter jets, tanks and missiles. But at the State Department, words are the bottom line and how they are used is important.

“I expect an internal revolt,” said a second Foreign Service official.

Another said that the water cooler conversation ranged from strong agreement to light banter to mild complaint. “It certainly took up to half the day,” the official said.

The department has used Times New Roman as its standard font for memos sent to the secretary since 2004.

In recent years, the “wings” and “feat” of serif fonts have gone out of fashion in design circles and consumer brands have opted for cleaner sans-serif fonts in their logos. such as Helvetica. “Millennials have killed the Serif,” said a New York Magazine headline in 2018.

The Washington Post uses the serif-friendly typeface Miller Daily in print and Georgia in digital versions.

The the secretary’s decision was motivated by accessibility issues and not aesthetics, said a senior State Department official familiar with the change. This is the latest major copy editing iteration under Blinken in a few weeks. Earlier this month, the State Department announced that it would begin spelling Turkey as “Türkiye” in diplomatic and formal situations at the request of the Turkish embassy.

Coming soon to a phone near you: A new wave of accessibility tools

Many experts agree that serif fonts—segments of letters with extra strokes—are harder to read on computer screens. (The difference is reduced when it comes to printed materials.)

Size is also important: best practice, according to the University of Edinburgh’s Disability and Inclusive Learning Service, is to use a 14-point font and avoid writing in block letters, or italics or emphasis put on text. “A good practice is to use a sans serif font,” the service said in the accessibility guide. “Types like Times New Roman are much more accessible.”

But there is no one-size-fits-all accessibility solution, says Jack Llewellyn, a London-based designer who specializes in typography, and a change in font that some readers may read may make it harder for others.

In its cable, the State Department said it was choosing to move to the 14-point Calibri font because serif fonts like Times New Roman “can introduce accessibility issues for people with disabilities who using Optical Character Recognition technology or screen readers. It can also cause visual recognition issues for people with learning disabilities,” he said.

While Calibri could improve the experience of readers who use screen readers or OCR — a technology that can convert an image of text into editable text — it could make reading more difficult for others, Llewellyn said.

A study found that Times New Roman is bad for abstracts. What other forms should you avoid?

Other design factors, including the alignment of the text, the difference between lines and the difference in color between the text and the background can make a bigger difference in accessibility than font type or size, says Ian Hosking, senior researcher at the Engineering Design Center at Cambridge University.

Hosking says those who want to make text accessible to the greatest number of people should allow personalization. “Choose a good standard font, go to one and a half line spacing, consider a basic off-white background with black text, and then guide” readers to increase or decrease the contrast or font size based on the feels more comfortable for them.

This approach comes with a trade-off, Hosking says: Increasing the line width, for example, makes a document longer. That could be a problem for institutions like the State Department that issue detailed and standard memos.

Overall, designing a functional, accessible and readable document is a “complex” and “individual” process with no “simple solution,” he says.

The debate about fonts and design has been going on for a long time. In its memo, the State Department cited Microsoft’s use of Calibri as the default font as a reason for the move. But in 2021, Microsoft announced that it would end Calibri as a standard font in favor of one of five new standard sans serif fonts.

“Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman in Microsoft Office,” the company said in a memo. It has served us all well, but we think it’s time to move on.”

However, it is a “good thing” that the State Department, with its tens of thousands of Foreign Service officers, civil servants and local workers, and more than 270 diplomatic missions around the world, would try to make their documents more accessible. said Llewellyn, who argues that a wider debate is overdue. “Why wouldn’t they recognize that there is an important issue to address there?”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.