Georgia is a transitional serif typeface designed in 1993 by Matthew Carter and hinted by Tom Rickner for the Microsoft Corporation. It was intended as a serif font that would appear elegant but legible printed small or on low-resolution screens. The font is inspired by Scotch Roman designs of the 19th century and was based on designs for a print typeface in the same style Carter was working on when contacted by Microsoft; this would be released under the name Miller some years later. The typeface's name referred to a tabloid headline claiming "Alien heads found in Georgia."
As a transitional serif design, Georgia shows a number of traditional features of 'rational' serif typefaces from around the early 19th century, such as alternating thick and thin strokes, ball terminals, a vertical axis and an italic taking inspiration from calligraphy. Its figure (numeral) designs are lower-case or text figures, designed to blend into continuous text; this was at the time a rare feature in computer fonts.
Closer inspection, however, shows how Georgia was designed for clarity on a computer monitor even at small sizes: it features a large x-height (tall lower-case letters) and its thin strokes are thicker than would be common on a typeface designed for display use or the higher resolution of print. Its reduced contrast and thickened serifs make it somewhat resemble Clarendon designs from the nineteenth century. Speaking in 2013 about the development of Georgia and Miller, Carter said, "I was familiar with Scotch romans, puzzled by the fact that they were once so popular...and then they disappeared completely."
Georgia's bold is also unusually bold, almost black. Carter noted that, "Verdana and Georgia...were all about binary bitmaps: every pixel was on or off, black or white...The bold versions of Verdana and Georgia are bolder than most bolds, because on the screen, at the time we were doing this in the mid-1990s, if the stem wanted to be thicker than one pixel, it could only go to two pixels. That is a bigger jump in weight than is conventional in print series." Given these unusual design decisions, Matthew Butterick, an expert on document design, recommended that organizations using Georgia for onscreen display license Miller to achieve a complementary, more balanced reading experience on paper.
The Georgia typeface is similar to Times New Roman, another revival of transitional serif designs, but with many subtle differences: Georgia is larger than Times at the same point size, and has a greater x-height at the same actual size; Times New Roman is slightly narrower, with a more vertical axis; and Georgia's serifs are slightly wider and have blunter, flatter ends.
Microsoft publicly released the initial version of the font on November 1, 1996 as part of the core fonts for the Web collection, and later bundled it with the Internet Explorer 4.0 supplemental font pack: these releases made it available for installation on both Windows and Macintosh computers. This made it a popular choice for web designers, as pages specifying Georgia as a font choice would display identically on both types if users installed the core fonts package (or later Internet Explorer), simplifying development and testing. Its creators also produced at the same time Verdana, the first Microsoft sans serif screen font, for the same purposes. Some early public releases of Georgia included number designs between upper and lower-case, similar to those later released with Miller. Carter was asked by Robert Norton, Microsoft's type director, to change these to text, a decision Carter later considered an improvement.
New versions of Georgia, along with its sister font Verdana, were released in 2011. The extension of the original font, named Georgia Pro, features a set of additional typefaces and designs, including:
- Additional weights, including condensed versions
- Specialised small caps designs
- Extensions to the character sets
- Extensions to the kerning
- OpenType typographic features such as ligatures
The expanded font was designed for organisations which had made extensive use of Georgia and Verdana due to its availability but desired additional versions for specific uses.
Microsoft has commissioned a number of variants. Georgia Ref, a variant of Georgia consisting of a single weight, but with extra characters, was bundled with Microsoft Bookshelf 2000, Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 99, Encarta Virtual Globe 99. MS Reference Serif, a derivative of Georgia Ref with a bold weight and italic, was also included in Microsoft Encarta.
The Cyrillic font won an award at Kyrillitsa in 1999.
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