Roboto is Helvetica, except it sucks.
I’ve become interested in typography in the last year, I’ve been trying to learn more about it, but I just-don’t-get-it, the typographic mess on this blog can convict me of this.
When Google released Ice Cream Sandwich they touted the design and the new system font Roboto. Google described the font as “modern, yet approachable” and “emotional“. My initial feeling was that it looked fairly solid, I was interested to see what others thought. The verdict came pretty quickly, “oh it’s a Helevtica rip-off” and they pointed to some evidence that this is indeed the case. Helvetica is a widely loved font, so to be compared so closely surely must mean from an aesthetic perspective it’s a fairly solid font.
Then a day or so later, Roboto is hated on. Really? but it’s so much like Helvetica? help! I want to understand. I could imagine a font that’s homely, ungainly and unharmonious, but I don’t see them in Roboto. I also don’t see what’s emotional or approachable about it. Helvetica is described as beautiful. The use of vague adjectives from Google and its critics seems to hide an inability to point to what’s really good or bad about a font. This makes the field quite inaccessible. It all reads to me like a subjective projection of feeling about the phones themselves, rather than the actual font, especially if you’re judging Roboto before you’ve held a device it was designed for in your hands.