Examples of Aptos, Microsoft's new default font Aptos.
(Via Microsoft)

Aptos, Microsoft’s new default font, chosen for the community’s ‘widely ranging landscape and climate’

Aptos is a sans serif font, which is designed to be easily readable and features letters that are simpler, with fewer flourishes. Microsoft said Steve Matteson designed the typeface “with a slight humanist touch.”

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For the first time in more than 15 years, Microsoft is changing its default font. On Thursday, the Redmond, Washington, tech giant unveiled the name of its new typeface, and it’s a word that will be familiar across Santa Cruz County: Aptos.

Type designer Steve Matteson created the font and named it Aptos, “after his favorite unincorporated town in Santa Cruz, California, whose widely ranging landscape and climate epitomizes the font’s versatility,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post Thursday.

Aptos is an Ohlone word meaning “the people.”

“The fog, beaches, redwood trees, and mountains of Aptos summed up everything that he loved about California,” Si Daniels, a principal program manager at Microsoft, wrote in the post. “Getting away from digital and evoking the outdoors was akin to getting back to pencil and paper. Drawing letters by hand would play a pivotal role in Steve’s creative process.”

Microsoft has been using Calibri as its default font for Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and Outlook email since 2007.

The company first announced it would be replacing Calibri in April 2021 and said it would choose among five new custom fonts it commissioned for that purpose. At that time, Matteson named the font Bierstadt after a peak in Colorado, where he lives. His design competed against four other font designs: tenorite, skeena, seaford and grandview.

Bierstadt (now renamed Aptos) resonated the most, Microsoft said. The font will be rolling out as the default typeface for the hundreds of millions of Microsoft 365 users over the next few months.

The change comes at a time when the name Aptos is competing against four other names in an entirely different contest in Santa Cruz County — that of renaming Cabrillo College.

On Aug. 7, the Cabrillo College board of trustees will vote on a new name among five options: Seacliff College, Costa Vista College, Santa Cruz Coast College, Cajastaca College and Aptos College.

A community task force narrowed a list of suggested names from about 350 names down to the five options. It will make a name recommendation to the board prior to the August meeting, but the board will ultimately decide what the new name will be.

Per Microsoft, Aptos is a sans serif font, which is designed to be easily readable and features letters that are simpler, with fewer flourishes. Microsoft said Aptos is clean-cut and made of varying geometric shapes in order to work in many different languages and to be easy to read on the smaller, higher-resolution screens common on today’s electronic devices.

Microsoft said Matteson 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,” Daniels, the Microsoft program manager, wrote. “Steve said the font has an understated personality that couldn’t be ‘overtly’ neutral. There had to be some warmth.”

“It’s kind of like listening to a GPS voice versus a human voice,” Matteson told Microsoft. “People would rather listen to a human than a robot telling you to turn left, that’s my ethos getting put into the design.”