Google Updating Font Family for Wider Mobile Device Use

Google continues to revamp key fonts to help improve the display of new content for mobile users on a wider range of device screens.

Google revamps fonts for mobile users

Google has been working to revamp how content appears for mobile users on a wide range of device screens by updating the Roboto font and introducing a new Chinese, Japanese and Korean language font.

The font updates are part of Google's constant mission beyond search, which it sees as making the Web easier to use and view by users.

The new version of the Roboto font was unveiled by Christian Robertson, a Google Android visual designer, in a July 16 post on the Google Developers Blog, as a project under Google's previously announced expansion of its Material Design guidelines. The guidelines aim to improve visual design online for users while incorporating innovation and the promises of technology and science.

"A lot of things have changed as we tuned the font to work across more screen sizes and conditions, from watches to desktops, televisions to cars," wrote Robertson. "It still keeps much of its character that made it successful for both phones and tablets, but almost every glyph has been tweaked and updated in some way."

Meanwhile, the release of the new Chinese, Japanese and Korean language font was announced by Xiangye Xiao, Stuart Gill and Jungshik Shin of the Google text and font team, in a July 15 post on the Google Developers Blog. The font was created in cooperation with Adobe to provide a richer and more beautiful reading experience to the East Asian community in many operating systems and software applications, according to the post.

The latest update of the Roboto font is just one step in a continuing evolution of the font as it proceeds through future changes, wrote Robertson. "It used to be that a type family was designed once and then used without change for many years. The old model for releasing metal typefaces doesn't make sense for an operating system that is constantly improving. As the system evolves over time, the type should evolve along with it."

That's the reasoning behind the latest Roboto changes, he explained. "The easiest way to identify the new version is to look for the R and K. They were some of the rowdier glyphs from version one and have been completely redrawn. Also check for the dots on the letter 'i' or in the punctuation. We have rounded them out to make the types a little more friendly when you look at them closely. We also rounded out the sides of the upper case characters like 'O' and 'C,' which makes the font feel less condensed even though it still has a high character count per line."

The most significant changes in the Roboto font are in the rhythm and spacing, especially for the capitals, wrote Robertson. "This isn't apparent as you look at individual glyphs, but makes for a better texture on the screen. Some of the more subtle fixes were to balance the weights between the caps and lower-case characters (the caps are slightly heavier in this version) and better correction for the distortions that occur in the obliqued italic characters."

In the end, "the purpose of a typeface is to serve the content and help people to understand it," he wrote. "We think that the new updates to Roboto along with the new Material Design guidelines will help it do more of just that."