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Dissecting Roboto, Android 4.0's font

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Glenn Fleishman discusses the subtleties of Roboto, the new font created for Android 4.0.

Roboto Font
Roboto Font

Few people are more vocal and particular than font enthusiasts, and Roboto, the new typeface for Ice Cream Sandwich, has not escaped their ire. To its critics, Roboto is "Google's Arial" at best, a "four-headed Frankenstein" at worst. Glenn Fleishman, however, has made an impassioned plea for the fledgling font, arguing that while it may pull some obvious cues from Helvetica (a version of which is used on iOS), Roboto's creators worked within their constraints to create something both new and effective.

Fleishman defends Roboto by discussing the tension between uniqueness and familiarity, saying that the font works because it manages a delicate balancing act between the two. According to him, "Roboto pricks at your sense of the familiar at first, but then, like a person you see passing in a crowd that you believe is a friend, and then on fully facing realize is a stranger, the font asserts its own identity." Android certainly isn't going to succeed or fail on font alone, but even those Fleishman would call "non-typophiliacs" can enjoy this dissection of what, exactly, makes a good typeface.