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.”
Google Updating Font Family for Wider Mobile Device Use
The addition of the new Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) font, called Noto Sans CJK, is aimed at helping the Web serve a huge number of users who speak those languages, which represents approximately one quarter of the world’s population, according to the Google text and font team’s post. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible to all users, no matter what language they use. To that end, Google, in cooperation with our partner Adobe, has released a free, high-quality Pan-CJK font family: Noto Sans CJK.”
The new Noto Sans CJK font “comprehensively covers Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean in a unified font family and yet conveys the expected aesthetic preferences of each language,” wrote Xiangye, Gill and Jungshik. “Noto Sans CJK is a sans serif typeface designed as an intermediate style between the modern and traditional. It is intended to be a multi-purpose digital font for user interface designs, digital content, reading on laptops, mobile devices and electronic books.”
The new Noto Sans CJK font includes tens of thousands of characters, as do the languages that they represent. “One of the primary design goals of Noto Sans CJK is that each script should retain its own distinctive look, which follows regional conventions, while remaining harmonious with the others,” the post states.
Google is releasing the font as Noto Sans CJK as part of Google’s Noto font family while Adobe will release it as Source Han Sans as a part of Adobe’s Source family. Adobe holds the copyright to the typeface design and the fonts are released under the Apache License, version 2.0, which makes them freely available to all without restriction, according to the post.
“Building Noto Sans CJK font is a major step toward our mission to make the reading experience beautiful for all users on all devices,” wrote Xiangye, Gill and Jungshik. “Noto Sans CJK is the newest member of the Noto font family, which aims to support all languages in the world.”
Google has been accelerating designs for new products using a speeded-up design process it calls “design sprints,” which are aimed at keeping innovations fresh. Recently, it announced that it is sharing these ideas with outside developers. To share its design sprint concepts, Google will be hosting events for select developers in the San Francisco Bay area this summer to give them opportunities to design for platforms like Glass and Android Wear or to build projects with a material design approach.
Google is constantly working with developers to help make their Websites more mobile friendly so that businesses can streamline their mobile Web pages so that they load faster and perform better for mobile users, which can in turn help businesses increase their mobile transactions and sales.
In December 2013, Google introduced a checklist for mobile developers to help guide them in building better mobile-friendly Web pages.