Although it primarily uses a webfont version of the much derided “Frankenfont”, I can’t help but love the general application of typography throughout the new Google Maps interface. A clear hierarchy and good use of the appropriate weights of the typeface give the application a tidy appearance. The designers clearly did their best with the materials they were given, and I think it’s one of the few examples of when a good design manages to overcome its decisions in the font-choosing department.
I think you’re right, Robin. I was really mean to Roboto when it was released, and I still think it’s an odd mix of ideas, but its looser spacing and some wider apertures generally perform better for maps than Arial did. In a future Fonts In Use Blog post, I’d like to compare this with Apple’s choice of Avenir Next for iOS Maps.
Also note that Google’s main corporate marketing typeface is Open Sans, a font family that would be even better for Google Maps and other screen UI environments (like Android).
Just for general reference, here are the three fonts as rendered by Quartz (Mac OS X):
Stephen, I think your initial reaction to Roboto was fair and warranted. And I agree that Open Sans serves well for Maps. But for Android, I think their Droid Sans works better due to its narrow form.
Chris, I guess that the most recent versions of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean) are already using Roboto as the primary font family.
They’ve switched from Droid Sans to Roboto. Here’s the official page of Typography for Android.
@geiras, I was replying to Stephen’s comment where he stated he would rather see Open Sans in other screen UI environments, such as Android. I stated Droid Sans might be better due to its narrow form. Thanks for the info, though.
Contributed by Stephen Coles