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Nov 10, 2011

Roboto, Ice Cream Sandwich’s New Typeface

Along with the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich mobile operating system, Google also announced the introduction on a new typeface for Android, called Roboto. 

Meant to replace the older family of fonts available in Android, called Droid, Roboto brings along increased visual appeal, and should prove modern, crisp, and in line with the new UI that Ice Cream Sandwich brings along. 

In a recent post on Google+, Matias Duarte explains that the development team aimed at creating something new with these fonts, and that all was driven by the idea of delivering something different from print, but in line with the evolving interactive display medium. 

“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,” he explains. 

“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).”

He also notes that the team was set to add tabular figures (numbers that are all the same width) into the mix, which were supposed to help displaying time, dates and other counters without modifications to the characters. 

Roboto was supposed to mark a design change and to prove a great medium for content. The typeface was supposed to be recognizable, distinctive without being distracting.

“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,” he continues. 

“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.”

In Roboto, the upper case letters are softened up, while the lower case ones have been enhanced with a bit of diversity, all aimed at eliminating the structured evenness of a type, one that might have resulted in making text difficult to read. 

Minor details of letters have been the main focus, and the character set has been extended to Greek and Cyrillic. With touches brought to rendering as well, Roboto started to look well on all sizes and resolutions. 

“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,” Google's Matias Duarte explains. 

While the new Android typeface looks great, there still is a lot of work to be done, especially since the team aims at making it look great on desktop computers as well.


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