The New Helvetica

Having finally updated my phone to iOS9 after giving the developers some time to work out the earliest kinks, the biggest change I’ve noticed is the new font. Apple will be rolling out their new San Francisco font into all of their products in the near future.

San Francisco is Apple answer to complaints about the thin clean lines of Helvetica being chosen over a more readable small digital font. Being a fan of Helvetica myself it’s been a bit of an adjustment switching over. I’ve heard it best described as Apple having moved all the furniture in our house over 1 inch without telling us. Everything seems okay but you keep bumping into things.

San Francisco is the first font Apple has created in-house since the 90’s. It was specifically created for be readable on tiny displays like the Apple Watch. Since buttons, titles, and headers keep getting smaller and smaller to cram more content on to digital screens I can only assume this will be a good change overall in the years to come. Android has also been working from the same playbook the past few years with their full acceptance of Roboto as their main font. A similar shape and style to San Francisco, also very legible on tiny screens.

This new font isn’t on it’s own as far as being readable on every screen and in every situation. Apple designed both a regular San Francisco as well as an even more Compact version. The biggest different is in the rounded letters like o’s and e’s. The compact font flattens out the round shapes to allows for a larger negative space between letters. Most apple systems will be able to tell automatically which version of the font to use depending how small the type is. If it’s tiny text or large display.

Apple also haven’t just committed to only using their new font on digital screens, the new 12” MacBook has San Francisco on it’s physical keyboard. I can assume their future laptops and keyboards will be rolling out with San Francisco as well. Maybe my keyboard will become a collector’s item, a relic of the Helvetica era.

Not everyone hates the change and a few people even love it. As with most digital overhauls the internet will be upset about it for a few days and then learn to embrace it along with all the other rebrands and updates we’ve seen from major companies over the years. It’s really not that bad.

Just think, it could have been Comic Sans Francisco.

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