Matias Duarte of Google wrote a long post yesterday about the new Roboto typeface they are using in Ice Cream Sandwich (aka Android 4.0). It is interesting more for what it says about how Google is trying to portray itself as for the details of how they went about making Roboto.
Matias is at pains to show how much effort they have put into delighting the consumer, e.g.:
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.
And to show their obsession with detail:
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.
Up to this point Apple has had the reputation for building beautiful products whilst Google has been seen as more utilitarian and efficient – brilliant maybe, but not exciting.
Clearly they are trying to change that perception – both by creating beautiful products and by talking about how they go about it. Just like Apple.
This is, I think, just one example of the way in which three of the leading tech companies of our time Apple, Google, and Amazon are becoming more and more like each other. Put differently – their strategies are increasingly to compete on all fronts. Google and Amazon have become hardware companies, Apple is focusing more on cloud services, all three are beefing up their content businesses, and hot off the press today, Amazon has bought a speech recognition company.