Wednesday, May 20, 2015

San Francisco as the Mac System Font

Mark Gurman (via Mike Rundle):

Apple is currently planning to use the new system font developed for the Apple Watch to refresh the looks of iPads, iPhones, and Macs running iOS 9 “Monarch” and OS X 10.11 “Gala,” according to sources with knowledge of the preparations. Current plans call for the Apple-designed San Francisco font to replace Helvetica Neue, which came to iOS 7 in 2013 and OS X Yosemite just last year, beginning with a June debut at WWDC.


Ever since switching to particularly thin weights of Helvetica Neue in iOS 7, Apple has been chastised for using a font that emphasizes clean lines over readability, and San Francisco is intended to solve this. According to the sources familiar with the decision to move to the San Francisco type face on iOS and OS X, Apple higher-ups also believe that the new look will serve to refresh its familiar operating systems, helping iOS and OS X to avoid becoming stale. However, some Apple engineers have told us that they are not fans of the new font, which may look particularly rough on non-Retina screens.

John Gruber:

Note too, that Apple is also using San Francisco for the keycaps on the new MacBook keyboard — Apple seems to moving toward using it for the “user interface” both in software and hardware.

Marco Arment:

If Mark Gurman is right, and he has a pretty good track record, I’m looking forward to seeing this. I don’t dislike Helvetica Neue, but it feels bland and overused, and it wasn’t designed for screen legibility.

The concern I have is that Helvetica Neue is bad on non-Retina displays, and it seems like San Francisco would be even worse there.

Update (2015-05-20): Nick Heer:

When it was released with WatchKit, I tried San Francisco as my OS X system font and found it even harder to read than Helvetica Neue. I suspect this is because the version I used was optimized for the Watch; I have hope that the version used on OS X will be optimized for that system, including for non-Retina displays. I’m very excited to see how this works.

Joe Cieplinski:

Helvetica Neue looks pretty crappy with its custom kerning in OS X, especially on non-Retina screens. (Which a majority of Mac users use and will use for years to come.) I don’t know how San Francisco will look on a non-Retina screen, but it would very likely be no worse.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Damn. I had my money on Chicago.


"The concern I have is that Helvetica Neue is bad on non-Retina displays, and it seems like San Francisco would be even worse there."

But why wouldn't you have a modern machine? Even though some currently selling machines aren't modern? If you didn't just buy it, (and wisely), what possible responsibility does Cupertino have to you?

"Helvetica Neue is bad on non-Retina displays"

It's bad with any display on OS X because its metrics are not exactly and perfectly the same as Lucida Grande.

Therefore we have to take that into account when sizing controls/views in Interface Builder.

This makes designing UI in Interface Builder even more a chore with each release.

Please, don't suggest using Autolayout. Autolayout just suck in comparison to the old system in too many cases to have proved its usefulness.

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