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Hello Roboto
When we announced Ice Cream Sandwich I also got a chance to introduce Android’s new typeface Roboto. Today I’d like to talk about how Roboto was born — why we decided to create it, and the design choices we made in the process.

Why replace Droid?
Droid is a great font family which served Android well over the years, but it was designed and optimized for screens that were much lower in pixel density than today’s HD displays. To be legible at smaller sizes, and to avoid turning to anti-aliased grey mush, the letter forms had to be quite dramatic. They had a tall x-height and a very regular rhythm so that they snapped to the pixel grid crisply. The bold variant was significantly wider than the regular text, because when a letter’s vertical strokes are one pixel thick, the only way to be bold is to double! It’s no surprise that on high rez screens, and at larger more dramatic headline sizes, Droid struggled to achieve both the openness and information density we wanted in Ice Cream Sandwich.

What were we looking for?
Most important was to create something that matched our ambitious design goals for Ice Cream Sandwich. Emotionally we wanted Ice Cream Sandwich to enchant you, to be attractive and eye-catching. Our new typeface had to be modern, crisp, and structured to match our new emphasis on open layouts and rigid grid alignments, but also friendly and approachable to make Android appealing, and a little bit more human.

Interactive display is a new and still evolving medium and what it demands from type design is subtly and uniquely different from print. 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. 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). We also wanted to include tabular figures (numbers that are all the same width) so we could display times, dates and other counters without having the characters jump around.

Finally we wanted Roboto to make a design statement in and of itself, in the same way that we wanted every screen on the device to have a strong and unique design point of view. Yet, just like the rest of the UI, Roboto is ultimately a medium for your content. We wanted Roboto to have a design character that made it recognizable, to be distinctive when you were paying attention, but never be overbearing or distracting.

How did we make it?
We realized early on that we needed something with a strong geometric backbone to hold up to our new open “Magazine UI” layouts. When we got rid of the boxes and bevels, dividers and other structural crutches, the more humanist fonts of our legacy felt uncomfortable and a little chaotic. Naturally we looked at some of the circle based geometrics like Avenir and Futura, but they’re very demanding in the rhythm of their metrics and ultimately were a little too soft for the crisp corners that we were using in the UI. The breakthrough came quickly when we settled on a straight sided grotesk.

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. 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.

One of the potential drawbacks of a grotesk font is that the structured evenness of the type can make it more difficult to read. We started by softening up the lower case letters, and then experimented with opening up some of the glyphs to get a more diverse rhythm. We found that by adding a little more diversity to the lower case the font become more readable. 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.

In the end we were iterating ceaselessly on minor details of the letters, extending the character set to Greek and Cyrillic, and tweaking the rendering so that Roboto would look just as good at all sizes and resolutions. In fact our work is not yet done as we continue to extend the character set and begin to hint Roboto so it works as well on computers as it does on Android devices. Still, I’m terrifically proud of the work the team and our lead typographer did in an ludicrously short amount of time. Roboto is a new foundation for Android and the team really deserves kudos for their accomplishment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little ‘behind the scenes’ peek at Android’s evolution. I had fun writing it, so let me know if you’d be interested in hearing more.

P.S. Secret font-lingo decoder ring here: https://plus.google.com/114892667463719782631/posts/hJcgdNRU1pS
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185 comments
 
Will it be available in Google services such Gmail or Google+? not only Mobile I mean Desktop, it would be great
 
Just installed on my Atrix, looks beautiful. Keep it up. and keep it coming !
 
Keep up the great work Matias. I enjoy reading these "behind-the-scenes" type posts. Keep em coming! I can't wait to get my hands on the Galaxy Nexus:)
 
Very interesting, would there be any legal issue with downloading the font and using it in a pre ICS android app?
 
Definitely more such 'behind the scenes' posts! :-)
 
I would never get tired of reading posts like this.
 
Loved the insight, Matias, thanks for sharing, and I love the new font too!
 
Awesome. Please do more G+ posts like this.
 
Thanks for the insight into your work Matias, I really appreciate having the thought process behind Android. Other articles like this would be welcomed.

Also, really excited about your interview with +The Verge next monday!
 
Matias, this post was incredible. I loved hearing how your team came up with the typeface. The attention to detail and thoughts on compatibility are inspired. Well done.
 
I love to hear stuff like this Matias. You and your team are doing excellent. Everything in ICS was way more than expected.
 
Love the behind the scenes look please provide more of these insights. I believe it will not only be interesting but also help designers to speak the same visual language when developing new apps
 
Thank you for sharing this! It's a pleasure to get insight into your design philosophy and process (loved reading about it on +The Verge). Looking forward to seeing what you and your team do.

Why do you name each version after a dessert and what happens once you reach Z? How does this relate to your newly implemented design philosophy and what does "Ice Cream Sandwich" say about that with this version? Do you think it's more helpful or confusing in communicating that and in keeping track of the versions (compared to 1.0, 2.0, etc)?
 
Always interesting to see how much work is involved. Even to the smallest little detail. A great read, looking forward to more.
 
Roboto is tight, Matias. Really easy on the eyes. Good share..I've gained a new respect of how much brain power and logic go into awesome fonts like this one.
 
Great post... definitely interested in hearing more.
 
The font is good. I understand that it's a foundational issue for the new OS. I also appreciate that Google (a notoriously engineer heavy company) is finally giving serious thought to UI and usability issues. Kudos and bravo. I think what I appreciate more, though, will be usability studies. I'm MUCH more happy with the buttonless design (eliminating the capacitive buttons). My children (9, 8, 4 and 2) love playing games on my wife and my phones. My wife has an iPhone, and even the two year old "gets" the navigation. On my Android, the little fingers keep on accidentally pressing the home or back buttons exiting them from the program. We need powerful simplicity in the UI. The Metro UI is striking, intuitive and beautiful. Apple's is drop dead simple, functional, and...ugly. Android is powerful and (currently) confusing. Android needs you. Enchanting is fine. Powerfully beautiful simplicity. That's what I want.
 
Is Roboto applied to all language or just used in English?
 
I really love this, would love to hear you talking about different parts of ICS's UI. People who've had the chance to play with the Galaxy Nexus have said that it is incredibly beautiful.
 
+Matias Duarte your a visionary designer. Hope your cooking more designs in the Android kitchen.
 
I'm extremely happy the Matias is so involved in the development of Android. This much thought would have never been put into 4.0 if he wasn't part of the team
 
Really interesting read. Never thought I'd read so much about a font.
 
i like the bold version. the thin one looks windows phone-y but thats ok.. regards the UI though, just a suggestion:can we at least have the option to move the bar below the honeycomb home screen to the top? it interferes with my typing and i keep accidentally pressing it instead of the spacebar.
 
WTF! Now you can send 23 billion words and I have to receive? Get TF out of my life please. If I need your assistance I will ask.
Ed
 
Matias, thank you for this interesting post. I'm truly looking forward to using ICS.

Since you specifically mention Greek and Cyrillic, might I ask whether Roboto will cover the complete unicode character set? My wife uses a southeast asian language. Until Android 2.2, I had to root her Android phone so I could replace the included font with a complete unicode font so she could read and write in her native language. I sure wouldn't like to have to replace your beautiful new font with something else on the ICS phones we probably will buy next year.
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Thanks for the great write-up! I've been using Roboto on my Droid X the past few weeks, and on some documents as well, and it is truly beautiful! More "behind-the-scenes" posts would be excellent!
 
it looks a lot like Helvetica CE with a touch of Frutiger.
Ryan J
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+Ed Vernon His post will show up on What's Hot. Otherwise, you shouldn't see his posts unless he is in your circles.

I've discovered that Google+ is much better than FB once I've learned the basics of how it works. The trick is to not treat it (or expect it to be) like FB.
 
Nice....need to publish in the Google online magazine
 
It looks great, can't wait to get it into my mobile. Great job!
 
Roboto is beautiful. Thank you, Matias. And these posts are very insightful, would love to hear more.
 
Roboto looks great!

Is it covers non-latin character set? (CJK, SE asia, etc.) I just hope it supports Thai characters as well (as I'm Thai :D).
 
Looks awesome! I am trying to patiently wait for ICS on my Nexus S!!
 
+Matias Duarte I loved reading your insight to this behind the scenes of Android. I have an idea for Android Beam: I am wondering in the future, you could bump the two phones and install "commands" to your phone which could set the clipboard to the selected text from a friend's phone and be able to accept the permissions of the command so you can run code on their phone from the command if they agreed to the permissions of it. P.S. I would like to hear insight about the new lock screen from changing to the draggable circle from the sliders found in all previous versions of Android.
 
I am looking forward to anything thrown out there. I think that it is a step in a great direction for the Android ecosystem. I think it will make unlocking the phone a little more "unique" rather than using the same style as iPhones.
 
+Chris Thompson yeah it will. i would like to i find out their thoughts over the process of changing it. or better yet, the ringtones pre loaded are unique.
 
I really want this font! Every font I have now on my Galaxy S2 looks too bold and in your face. This one just looks clean and elegant.
 
Can we install it on our phones now? T he font I mean
 
+Kenny Embry find an app in the Android Market called Famigo Sanbox. It is free and very good to sandbox your phone so it can be used by kids. Restrict apps, settings etc.
 
I think this kind of content is amazing. For a long time Android was brute, lacking deffinition. Android's design breakthrough couldn't happen in a better way, +Matias Duarte.

Your skills as a communicator are showing up to be at least as good as your work as a designer. You show a great respect with the public when you put some time into sharing your work with us - I love your interviews with +Joshua Topolsky !

For the ICS experience to be lovable you and your team looked carefully into Android's history to develop an ambient that is not only highly refined and fresh, but that also respects the elements of an established operational system, with 50%+ of its market.

Google will always have a lot of its workers representing it everywhere, it is a plural company, but missed someone with a good dose of charism behind its lines. Someone to carry the flag of the user experience. And you are this person.

After reading an interesting post like this, that gives us a small idea of the work being done in our OS, I can't help but feel excited for the next years.

Your attitude of sharing this is the best we could ask. As a fan I missed the names of the rest of the team involved, so those of us interested could show them some love too.

Yes, keep doing this. We salute your work!
 
Perfect! Legible, functional and with personality. Thanks for the backstory. Encouraging that you guys are so meticulous about the details that make up the user experience. Bravo! Yes, I'd love to hear more. Thanks so much!
 
So we are looking for a new UI in IceCream sandwich thats awesome and looking forward to it.. let the people decide its fate
 
I enjoyed the post.. Please keep them coming! Looking forward to ics... And after that jelly bean??
 
Thanks for the post! Very interesting.
 
Me encantaría ver el manual de estilo completo para el nuevo Android.
I'd love to see the complete style guide for the new Android.
Excelente trabajo.
I put the font via TypeFresh in Gingerbread and it reads really well. I'd like to see more variants too. Ultralight, for example, as part of the UI.
 
It looks great Matias please keep the information coming I love to hear about all the details that led to ICS.
 
Awesome post! I'm glad to see someone at Google cares about design :) I still can't believe the team made this in such a short time
 
I really like the new look. can't wait to flash Ice Cream Sandwich on my phone. Android continues to blow my mind all the time.
 
I think it's beautiful and I appreciate all the work you did. The typography aficionado in me loves your description, too! I'm wondering, though: what is your response to people who say it looks like Helvetica?
 
I also already flashed the font on my Samsung Galaxy S II and I love it (although Segoe might still be a bit better, because it is not only incredibly readable but also "different", it is a really, really strong contender ;-))
I was surprised how much more readable it is compared to Droid and even standard Helvetica, even if it looks similar to the latter on the first glance, the improvement it is clearly in the details.
 
+Very Interesting Indeed. People never realize all the work that it takes to create a new phone, let alone the OS, or UI for the OS, and in this case the font created to render the text in the UI of the OS. +Matias Duarte, please do continue to shed some light on the process of developing Android. I think it will go a long way in enchanting people as you are hoping to do, by letting us in on the creation process. It's kind of like Peter Jackson's massive 12 hour making of the Lord of Rings Trilogy and what he's doing with The Hobbit. It makes you feel like you're part of the process and not just some brain dead consumer. Can't wait to get my hands on the Galaxy Nexus. P.S. Will this thing have Google Wallet on it at launch? I keep finding myself shopping at places like Duane Reade and that Google Wallet logo is staring me in the face begging me to use it. The first thing I do when I get this one (provided it has GW) is buy something with Tap to Pay. #LeavemyWalletBehind
 
Release ICS update to Nexus phones. Can't wait !
 
This was a very nice look behind what went into the effort of the new typeface. I wish it was possible to have a choice as to whether I would be able to install ICS without HTC's Sense UI on top when it eventually comes out for my EVO 3D.

Just a little reminder to myself; I will surely go back to pure Android devices after my contract expires with this one. HTC in my opinion has completely botched the 2.3.4 Gingerbread update by not properly updated Sense to go along with the new update.
 
Yes, enjoyed it and looking forward to more! I always love the "how" and "why" behind things =D
 
That KS Matias, def interested in hearing more :-)
 
Like others I'd love to read about more aspects of ICS and future developments very insightful.
 
Very sweet Font you all created... too bad we are still waiting for our galaxy nexus :D

at least you are keeping the waiting time awesome :D
 
+Matias Duarte I have a touchpad, so admire your work on other platforms and Android couldn't have gotten you at a better time my friend, just one thing concerns me about ICS and that's all the changes and content added.

Going forth what else could you possibly do? Android 4.0 pretty much has everything we ever wanted so not sure but permissions for apps as well as wasted space on the market in my apps and a few areas need some work.
 
How about Chinese font?
 
Just answering my own question in case anyone cares ;)

Other names for sans-serif
<snip>
Grotesque: It was originally coined by William Thorowgood of Fann Street Foundry, the first person to produce a sans-serif type with lower case, in 1832. The name came from the Italian word 'grottesco', meaning 'belonging to the cave'. In Germany, the name became Grotesk. German typefounders adopted the term from the nomenclature of Fann Street Foundry, which took on the meaning of cave (or grotto) art.[9] Nevertheless, some explained the term was derived from the surprising response from the typographers.[10]

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sans-serif
 
Thanks for this behind the scene Matias, you rocks :)
 
Want to install it on your device now? You need to be rooted then install font changer:
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.martino2k6.fontchangerlite&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5tYXJ0aW5vMms2LmZvbnRjaGFuZ2VybGl0ZSJd

Download the tts files from here:http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/10/19/get-the-new-ics-font-roboto-on-your-android-device-right-now/

Then drop the droidsans font into the .fontchanger folder on your sdcard. Open the app, select the font, reboot and enjoy!
 
I like it VERY much. Reminds me of DIN1451 / FFDIN :)
 
I think the Segoe family of fonts from Microsoft is better
 
I would have preferred that you license Univers or Helvetica instead of mashing them into DIN, but I must admit it is a welcome and long overdue improvement. Droid looks very dated. Kudos for taking the time to explain it as well.
 
Nice article +Matias Duarte please keep them coming, Your a great inspiration for other User Interface/Experience Designers and I for sure will be following your work closely.
 
Will we be seeing this on Google Web Fonts anytime soon?
 
Great read! If you could do more "behind the scenes" posts then that would be awesome!
 
Great read +Matias Duarte more thoughts about design and overarching coherence from a UI perspective would be interesting to read
 
Interesting insights in the process of font design / UI decisions.
 
Thanks for this font! I've installed it on my Android the day after the ICS Event. It's beautiful! In fact Roboto, ubuntu and Azbuka are my favorite fonts.
 
Loved this piece and would love to hear more behind-the-scenes stuff about ICS (not just Roboto).
 
Fascinating reading. And i also like the font, although Nokia Pure...<3
 
I just started to use the font yesterday thru a MIUI ICS theme, the font is nice on my Samsung Galaxy S.
 
Great post! I would love to hear more about behind-the-scenes Android work. Anything!
 
I have enjoyed watching your interview when you first joined the Android team and have appreciated all of the insight you have provided since then.
 
+Matias Duarte great write up! Thank you so much for behind the screens tidbit! But it is never enough to hear more about what happens at Building 44 :) Please do give us more insight on how our Androids are made! Thanks again for this piece!
 
I know it's been said several times already, but I'd love to see this font available on G Web Fonts. Watch that font really go viral.
 
Thanks for posting this. I look forward to further behind-the-scenes posts.
 
It seems that Helvetica would have worked just fine and would have avoided the typographic community's outcried that you ripped off Helvetica and a few other fonts. Helvetica works on the highest density screen on a phone out there (iPhone 4 & 4S)
 
+Matias Duarte I'm interested in anything you can post about the design of Android 4.0+ Please keep it going.
 
I never thought I'd be bothered until I ported it to my Nexus S and love it. It's on the XDA forum for anyone with root. Great work guys.
 
This just makes it harder for me to wait until release.
 
It looks pretty good on computer screen but when I try it on my Galaxy S2 it looks not so beautiful! kinda disappointing
 
I went looking for Roboto at Google Web fonts and it is not in the collection. Although it is optimized for Android displays, It would be nice to share it with the world.
 
guys, does Android support otf?
 
It there a monospace version of this font available?
 
The Roboto font is in the Android 4.0 SDK. One could easily install it on your computer from there. (It's in platforms/android-14/data/fonts)
 
+Lino Barreca non credo sia possibile capisca, ma non potrebbe essere un typo? Comunque esiste il tasto "traduci" (lo hai installato?), quindi può darsi ci becchino!
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Its awesome I'm currently using ROBOTO FONT!! :)
 
Im using Roboto on my Galaxy S and it is much more readable than the stock fonts, so great work!
 
Definitely interested in more coverage, it's great to have a sight behind the scenes. It's informative, very enjoyable, and at the same time it kinda makes me feel like I was involved in the process. I know, it's a little bit cheesy, but still, I loved the post, keep them coming, you'll surely have one reader.
 
It's OK, but what the hell you did with cyrillic "Ъ"? What about cyrillic "Д"? The first is really strange, the second is just not good. I can't understand that.
 
Great post! Would be awesome to read more about the steps of designing ICS.
 
Good stuff. This is the kind of work that will make the Galaxy Nexus and ICS stand apart. Now if only I could get my hands on the phone...:)
 
I realy love your work! Android looks much better since you got ur hands on it
 
Hey Matias, now we need ICS to be deployed also on Nexus S to check if it's true. Lol 
 
+Matias Duarte what is up with the ae combined? it is this a feature you can disable? I understand the history of the language in the past, but EVERY TIME I type an ae it combines it.
 
and what about czech characters: "ěščřžýáíé" ?
 
+Matias Duarte i noticed the capital "I" and lowercase "l" are very similar. why did you decide to do that?
 
Hi Matias, what are the chances of running WebOS shell on top of Android? Surely it can be done as they both Run Linux and are Webkit based? The multitasking on WebOS is just so intuitive..
 
i would really like to know if the light and thin variants of Roboto are or will be available to download
Imran H
 
I WANT TO GET THIS FONT ON MY COMPUTER SOOO BAD.
 
Just one of many goodies I'll miss out on with my ice cream-less droid. 
 
"Eurostile": for some reason this old simplistic font was the first thing that came to me when I discovered how Roboto actually looked. Is this just me ?
 
The comparison to Helvetica that +Michael Comia posted nicely emphasizes what you said about the rhythm: it looks much friendlier. I look forward to seeing those 'e's and 'a's interact. I also like the shoulders on n/r and the connector on k, hopefully it looks as good in practice.
 
i'm loving how design-centric the new android is shaping up to be. More behind-the-scenes please!
 
NICE! Now add in some built in controls to quickly make the UI usable for the site challenged and you've got it! Thank you.
 
Is right that in current SDK 14 version is not final version of this font? Because I read many articles about this font, which describe how bad it has international support, monospace is missing, etc.
 
That's a very nice font, I'd be very tempted to adopt that as our corporate font. How is it licensed ?
 
Not too bad, but personally...Segoe WP is better.
 
AWSOME!!! Love reading these types of posts :-)
Tim Fox
 
On Google webfonts yet?
 
yes, yes, A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Please post more! Thanks for the interesting post.
 
I'm using it on Ubuntu 11.10 with the default slight hinting and it looks good! I like it. The bold version seems to be somewhat weird, condensed and with uneven-inter-letter-spacing issues, but I guess the version as ripped from the SDK is not the final one? Hope the complete family will be made available. Never really got warm with the Ubuntu font, so Roboto is welcome :)
 
Eres un máquina. Gracias por hacerlo simple pero interesante.
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Excelente! Android es fantastico gracias a personas como tú.
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this font type makes sense big time. love it....
 
Nice! I even used it for headings in my dissertation.
 
There is a way to use roboto font in my theme/style xml file because it's unacceptable to derive each widget and to setTypeFace ?
 
I just updated my phone to ICS and really like the new Roboto font. Except for Cyrillic characters. All of them have awkward proportions when compared to the Gingerbread's default font. Could you revisit them? Cyrillic on GB looked a whole lot better in my opinion.
 
Roboto font is really great. Though, was it really needed to make "0" of "different" width (so one can notice that) rather than other digits in Roboto-Light?
 
@Frederic Marand
It's not just you. In fact, I found this article by Googling "roboto vs eurostile" and it ended up as the first result thanks to your comment!
 
No offence to the makers, but I don't like Roboto. I don't think it suits normal prose. It doesn't "feel" natural to me and I'm always concious of just how over-striking it is.
 
I think that Roboto is just not well suited for low-density screens and phone manifacturers are responsible to take this into account. Roboto looks very well on HD mobile screens, I'm just not entirely sure about the Cyrillic characters, but overall it looks great!
 
Is there a way of making this my default font on the Galaxy Note 2?
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