The New Default Microsoft Office Type Family Is Called Aptos

In April 2021, Microsoft announced it was seeking to replace Calibri as the default type family in Office products. It made available five different choices to users. Bierstadt, the likely contender, was described by its designer Steve Matteson as a humanized grotesque sans-serif:

Microsoft already has Arial — which has many attributes from grotesque types preceding Helvetica — and my approach was to design a sans serif which would contrast with Arial by being far more mechanical and rationalized. The terminal endings are precisely sheared at 90 degrees — a modern note contrasting the softer, angled endings in Arial — and a lack of somewhat fussy curves found in Arial’s ‘a’, ‘f’, ‘y’ and ‘r’.

The type designer doth protest too much over the Arial–Helvetica comparisons, methinks.

Si Daniels, of Microsoft Design, in a blog post published on Medium — which is still super weird to me — today formally announced Bierstadt as the replacement for Calibri, where it will be renamed Aptos:

Today we begin the final phase of this major change where Aptos will start appearing as the new default font across Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel for hundreds of millions of users. And, over the next few months it will roll out to be the default for all our customers. We can’t wait for Aptos to be readily available since it was crafted to embody the many aspects of the human experience.

Fine so far. I do not see much of any humanist sans-serif in Aptos, however. It seems pretty specifically grotesque. Maybe if I keep reading I will get what Matteson was going for:

He designed the font with a slight humanist touch. He wanted Aptos to have the universal appeal of the late NPR newscaster Carl Kasell and the astute tone of The Late Show host Stephen Colbert. […]


I am still not understanding. Perhaps the new name will clue me in?

[…] Steve renamed the typeface he designed from Bierstadt to Aptos after his favorite unincorporated town in Santa Cruz, California, whose widely ranging landscape and climate epitomizes the font’s versatility. The fog, beaches, redwood trees, and mountains of Aptos summed up everything that he loved about California. […]

Still not getting it. But thanks to a handful of tech companies, I am learning way more about Californian geography than I thought I ever needed to.

Update: Marcin Wichary:

Personally a little frustrated with posts like these. This has a lot of artistic words about a *utilitarian* typeface, but no screenshots of it in use, no close ups of the details, no comparison with other fonts mentioned. There is a part that explains some subtle choices made by the type designer – and yet, no photo *showing* them.

I agree. It is ridiculous that the closest we see to Aptos in-use is on a series of posters and things which look like signage. In the real world, we will most often see it a few hundred words at a time at body text size with the default Microsoft Word margins.