The looming possibility of the country defaulting on its debt(Opens in a new window) could have far-reaching and dire consequences, but a second crisis has shaken the core of the State Department: a mandated font switch from Times New Roman to Calibri.
Changes are afoot in the US State Department under Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who in an email provided to the Washington Post(Opens in a new window), is changing the font for high-level internal documents to be more readable for those with low vision. The mandate comes at the suggestion of the secretary’s office of diversity and inclusion.
According to The Post, the move was not well received within the State Department, with employees complaining about the inconvenience of the change and the un-aesthetic font choice. One Foreign Service officer told The Post that casual discussion on the font mandate ended up taking “half the day” between those for and against the change. Another employee was quoted saying they expect an “internal revolt.” One officer even went so far as to say the switch is “sacrilege.”
Lighthearted banter or not, the idea of federal employees spending half of their workday on heated discussions on fonts does not inspire confidence, to say the least. This is also not the first time a switch like this has happened. In fact, Times New Roman was the sacrilege font change back in 2004, when the State Department phased out the use of Courier New 12, the typewriter font. That move also received pushback at the time as well, according to Gizmodo(Opens in a new window). Time is a flat, sans-serif “O,” to paraphrase a great philosopher(Opens in a new window).
Officials within the State Department have told The Post that the font mandate is purely for accessibility and has nothing to do with aesthetics. In an email obtained by the Post, Blinken stated that the “decorative, angular features” of Times New Roman and other serifs “can introduce accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities who use Optical Character Recognition Technology or screen readers.” And there actually is some experimental evidence(Opens in a new window) documenting the greater legibility(Opens in a new window) of sans-serif fonts, though this is far from definitive.
Experts speaking to The Post have praised the move, stating that with tens of thousands of employees working in the State Department, it’s a “good thing” to be more reader-accessible. Per Blinken’s email, the department’s domestic and international offices have until February 6 to adopt the changes.