Google has designed a new font that offers better reading comfort


Google and Commercial Type have launched a new variable typeface called Roboto Serif.

Google introduces a new typeface called Roboto Serif. According to the company’s announcement, this open-source font is designed to be easier on the eyes. It would provide an ideal reading experience on different screen sizes and in print.

The story of the typeface

In 1993, Americans with Internet access spent less than 30 minutes a month surfing the Web. Today, we devote almost seven hours a day to it. All the more reason to make these hours spent more pleasant and comfortable.

That same year, nearly 20 years ago, Matthew Carter introduced the Georgia Police. It is one of the first serif typefaces designed for ease of reading on low resolution screens. Thus, Georgia was one of the first eleven “basic web fonts”. These paved the way for OpenType fonts and, ultimately, variable fonts.

“Today, a well-designed OpenType serif can be just as readable on screen as it is in print. And a well-designed variable wheelbase can provide readers with additional on-screen benefits”, says Google. Namely that the serif, or the Serif, is a line added to each end of the characters. According to Adobe, a theory suggests that the serifs would come from the trace left by the tool, the pen or the brush for example, when the hand rises by completing the gesture of writing. In short, in typography, it is the small extensions that terminate the ends of the characters.

The Roboto family is growing

Roboto (sans Serif) debuted as an Android system font in 2014. This sans serif font was followed by Mono, Slab, and Condensed versions in what Google calls “the Roboto superfamily.” Thus, Roboto Serif, the youngest, joins the Roboto siblings alongside his four eldest.

This new typeface was designed in collaboration with Commercial Type, a digital type foundry based in New York and London. Unlike other Roboto typefaces, this new typeface was not limited by the design of the original sans serif. Indeed, Commercial Type was allowed to design the Roboto Serif from scratch.

“Our goal was to create a typeface that you could use for long-form journalism or a novel – something very long and involved; an immersive text that you read on your phone – without feeling like complaining”, features Commercial Type employee Greg Gazdowicz.

For better reading comfort

Put simply, in designing Roboto Serif, Greg Gazdowicz and his team took an unconventional approach to typeface design. So, instead of basing it on an existing typeface, they “atomized” the letterforms, breaking down the serif typeface into its elementary parts. “They then pieced them together by experimenting with various proportions, types of contrast, terminal shapes, and serif shapes to find what was most readable for each typeface”, explains Google. Concretely, each letterform was designed from scratch. The goal was to create a character reminiscent of Roboto, but adopting a “new and original design”.

Roboto Serif has four variable axes and six optical sizes. Namely, micro, small text, text, deck, display and poster. It is also possible to adjust the width, height, size and grade of the font. Nine versions are already ready to use, including Thin, ExtraLight, Regular, Medium, Bold and Black.

The Roboto Serif font is open source and available through Google Fonts. Google has also published a PDF guide called “Getting Comfortable With Roboto Serif”. This one which gives more details on its design and gives reading advice. For example, the text recommends “doing yoga exercises for the eyes after long periods of screen use”.

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