Behind the scenes of the new Android Standard Font Roboto
The font was designed for smartphone screens, but I will try it out for other screen designs as well – the screen density is similar.
#font #android #opensource #roboto
Reshared post from +Matias Duarte
Why replace Droid?
What were we looking for?
Interactive display is a new and still evolving medium and what it demands from type design is subtly and uniquely different from print. We wanted to take maximum advantage of ultra high density screens like that of Galaxy Nexus, yet still be crisp and legible on lower resolution displays like that of Nexus S. Because Roboto would be used for the UI we wanted to make the bold very similar to the metrics of the regular weight, so that text could gracefully switch from bold to regular (like when you read emails in your inbox). We also wanted to include tabular figures (numbers that are all the same width) so we could display times, dates and other counters without having the characters jump around.
Finally we wanted Roboto to make a design statement in and of itself, in the same way that we wanted every screen on the device to have a strong and unique design point of view. Yet, just like the rest of the UI, Roboto is ultimately a medium for your content. We wanted Roboto to have a design character that made it recognizable, to be distinctive when you were paying attention, but never be overbearing or distracting.
How did we make it?
Roboto’s straight sided capitals and distinctive racetrack-shaped rounded letters turned out to be perfect for our needs in a system font. It is space efficient and and holds its own for the short terse messages that are so common in UI. It has a high degree of compatibility with legacy designs created for Droid, because in almost all cases the same size Roboto sets in the same amount of space. Yet because of Roboto’s more structured forms we can actually set it smaller and with tighter line spacing, allowing us to put more information on the screen without inducing claustrophobia.
One of the potential drawbacks of a grotesk font is that the structured evenness of the type can make it more difficult to read. We started by softening up the lower case letters, and then experimented with opening up some of the glyphs to get a more diverse rhythm. We found that by adding a little more diversity to the lower case the font become more readable. In particular, we opened up the ‘e’ and ‘g’ while keeping the ‘a’, ‘c’ and ‘s’ characters closed. The rhythm starts to compare more to book types and makes for really nice reading over longer spans of text.
In the end we were iterating ceaselessly on minor details of the letters, extending the character set to Greek and Cyrillic, and tweaking the rendering so that Roboto would look just as good at all sizes and resolutions. In fact our work is not yet done as we continue to extend the character set and begin to hint Roboto so it works as well on computers as it does on Android devices. Still, I’m terrifically proud of the work the team and our lead typographer did in an ludicrously short amount of time. Roboto is a new foundation for Android and the team really deserves kudos for their accomplishment.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little ‘behind the scenes’ peek at Android’s evolution. I had fun writing it, so let me know if you’d be interested in hearing more.
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