Font Hipsters

Thom Holwerda, OS News:

Ice Cream Sandwich also introduces a new font, Roboto, which is the default font all throughout Android 4.0. It’s designed for high-density displays, and, as always with anything that isn’t ZOMGHELVETICAGGNRFFRRRR, the font hipsters are hating on it like crazy.

No one — no one — is criticizing Roboto because it isn’t Helvetica. If anything, the complaint is that it’s too similar to Helvetica. Nor is anyone suggesting that Android should use Helvetica as its system font. In fact, if they did use Helvetica as their system font, the criticism would be louder, insofar as they’d be seen as copying from Apple. (Of course, they couldn’t use Helvetica, because Helvetica can’t be included in an open source OS, but that’s beside the point.)

The criticism is simply that Roboto is ungainly, homely, unharmonious.

Of course, had Apple used this font, it would’ve been awesome and beautifully elegant and understated and magical (how’s that Comic Sans rip-off Marker Felt that’s infesting iOS working out for ya?).

If Apple chose a font as ugly as Roboto as the system font for iOS, both type and UI designers would be driven into apoplexy with rage. We love great design and beautiful things, and Apple tends to produce great design and beautiful things — we don’t blindly love Apple and claim all it produces is great. I dare you to find one critic of Roboto who claims to be a fan of Marker Felt. Here’s me complaining about it on the first day the iPhone was available: “Marker Felt is silly, ugly, and worst of all, hard to read.”

Alas, I like [Roboto], I think it looks nice.

That’s one.

It’s certainly not as beautiful as Metro’s excellent Segoe-based typography, but then again — nothing is.

On Segoe, we agree. But note that everyone agrees. No one from Holwerda’s imaginary Apple-defending Helvetica-loving cabal has anything but praise for Segoe, as Metro’s system font. It’s attractive, readable, friendly, and distinctive.

Honestly, I’m just selfish. I want Android to have an attractive system font, if for no other reason than that the system font is going to be used to render Daring Fireball for anyone reading it on an Android device. This idea that designers who favor iOS criticize Android for being poorly designed just because it’s from an Apple competitor is nonsense — a bogeyman construct dreamed up by open source zealots who refuse to believe over a decade of evidence that open source UIs tend to be ugly, and that ugly UIs tend to be unpopular. We criticize Android for being poorly designed because it’s poorly designed. We favor iOS because it’s better designed. That’s it.