welcome (to) san francisco: a font for every screen from apple

Apple’s new custom font ‘San Francisco’

Why are fonts important?

Font choice is one, if not the most important decision in design. Not only does it affect the visual aesthetic, but more importantly the user experience. If your chosen font is not easily legible, then the entire purpose of your message is lost. When you bring in responsive design and multiple sizes of the same element, font choice becomes even more critical. A snippet of text may look great on a desktop (1200px), but when it shrinks down does it look as great? In many cases, when fonts get smaller the letters become congested and hard to distinguish from one another. San Fransisco was created as a way to combat the challenges of font readability across multiple devices. 

Apple made the first step in switching their system-wide font from Helvetica Neue to San Francisco earlier this year with the introduction of Apple Watch. The reason behind the change was a shifted focus to smaller devices. Helvetica Neue loses precision in its letters as they get smaller in size. This creates confusion for the user, with cases where an uppercase ‘I’ can be easily mistaken for a lowercase ‘l’.  San Francisco has bolder characteristics with increased spacing to help legibility. It’s still similar to Helvetica (and even Google’s ‘Roboto’) but possesses it’s own characteristics such as its slightly rounded corners. The typeface also has a taller x-height which helps with the legibility of lower-case letters. 

The data:

U.S. Digital Media Time Spent by Platform

U.S. Digital Media Time Spent by Platform

The chart above is only a fraction of evidence that mobile design needs the attention it deserves. With more users looking to their phone or tablet for information, we have to take into consideration the presentation of that information across all devices. Although Apple is showing continuous development towards a perfected user experience, many have criticized how long its taken them to do it. Google and Mozilla have had their own fonts for years, while Apple is just jumping on the bandwagon. The way I look at it, Apple has a leg up because they’re advertising San Fransisco as a refined typeface for smaller screens, whereas Google and Mozilla’s typefaces are already aged and being used.

The bottom line:

Font choice is imperative in UI/UX design. If you don’t utilize a typeface that is legible across all screen sizes, users checking your site on a phone or tablet will navigate to something more accessible. So before you get too far with any design, choose a font that works well on every experience.

Source: http://www.wired.com/2015/06/apple-abandoned-worlds-beloved-typeface/

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