Change the default, change the world

Patrick Sanwikarja
1 min readJun 22, 2022

The world’s most used typeface in graphic design is probably Helvetica. But I bet the second most used typeface is Calibri. Ironically, Calibri is not even designed for offline use (it’s a font optimized for screens), but that doesn’t keep millions of people using it for their letters, posters and other amateur “graphic designs”.

Calibri is everywhere.

Not because all these people clicked on the font selector, browsed through all available options and chose Calibri as the best font for their specific goal.

No, it’s because Calibri was the default. It has been Microsoft’s default font in Windows and apps like Word and PowerPoint for 15 years. They will change to a new default font soon. And from that moment, we will see Bierstadt, Tenorite or Skeena in thousands of amateur designs, all over the world.

People don’t like making choices.

So whenever we make the choice for them, whether it’s a font, a setting or even a certain feature that’s turned on by default, we not only make their lives easier, we can also have an incredible impact on the world as a whole. Ever since we changed to an opt-out system (instead of the previous opt-in system), we have seen a huge increase in organ donors in The Netherlands. This simple change of the default has already saved many, many lives.

The question is: which choices can you make for your user, and what should be the default, to have the greatest impact not just on the individual but also on the world?

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