Google and the new Roboto font

For the past year Google has been tweaking Roboto, known to many as the default Android font. As you can see from this diagram, it has made a limited number of tweaks – some more dramatic than others.

(The new Roboto is outlined in red. Click for fuller view.)


Questions about the roundedness of Rs, the length of the horizontal in T etc. are doubtless esoteric to many people but the fact that Google has gone to such lengths tells a story.

This begins with the fact that Google doesn’t just need a font for today. It has spent its time – and by extension, money – trying to future proof for a time when the font will be used in cars, Tvs, smart watches and beyond. The task was made more complex by the possible combinations of font weights and styles – which were tested on a number of screens with different resolutions.

In essence, Roboto has to support the user interface (UI) of dozens of tomorrow’s new tech devices – including ones that haven’t even reached the drawing board.

Against this backdrop, those esoteric questions about Rs and Ts become important.

“UI’s are crafted from images and type,” Matias Duarte, Android’s head of design told Wired’s Cliff Kuang. “But the idea of having a typeface that’s thought out as a UI typeface — that’s not been done before.”

And Google’s approach is ground-breaking.

“Not only did we have a number of designers, but we had producers and assistants layered on top of those,” says Duarte. “It was bigger than any design project we’ve ever had.”

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