The Two Sarahs, graphic design agency, Southampton. Whatever your design need, we can help.
Font changes you didn't notice
July 15, 2016
Everyone loves a good font.
Or, probably more accurately, there are some fonts that everyone hates. (Comic Sans, we’re looking at you). You may not realise it, but fonts actually get quite a lot of attention. You may recall our previous post about the Google rebrand, which mainly consisted of a font change from their iconic serif logo into a friendlier sans serif logo. This rebrand was talk of the town for a little while, and we weren’t sure what to make of it ourselves - though we must admit, it’s grown on us since the original launch.
Another noticeable font change was the one that came about from the iOS9 update, in which Apple changed the font of their operating system from a familiar Helvetica Neue to a brand new San Francisco. This change didn’t affect the actual branding/logo, however this change still affects the way the brand is seen in the eyes of it’s users. This received mixed reviews much like the Google rebrand - and I bet most users can’t even remember what the previous font looked like on their devices.
These font substitutions stirred up a lot of conversation, because they were such big changes and extremely noticeable to those who interact with the brand on a daily basis. I mean really, how could you not notice something as obvious as that?
Well, here are some brands who changed their fonts right under your noses.
We’ll kick start this list with Tumblr, a popular blogging site, who tweaked the font of their logo in October 2013. You’ll see that this logo became more simplified, ditching the gradient, as well as changing the font - or at least, it’s layout. I’m a personal user of Tumblr and I must admit I didn’t notice the difference straight away. As a Graphic Designer, I was a little ashamed!
The simplification does make the logo appear a lot cleaner and also clearer, in those instances where the logo will be viewed at a reduced size. Along with the ‘rebrand’, Tumblr also provided users with a Style Guide, as well as downloadable files of the logo for it’s use on user submitted content. We think this is quite clever of Tumblr - by making it easier for users to utilise their logo, it gets the brand name out there without any effort being made by the brand itself. It’s practically user-generated marketing. Nice one, Tumblr.
The YouTube font change that took place last year is similar to the Apple font change mentioned above - it doesn’t affect the logo, but rather how the content is viewed by users. It’s clear that YouTube gets a LOT of web traffic - Psy’s video Gangnam Style broke records by being the first to hit 1 billion views, and at the time of writing this post the hits currently sit at 2.6 billion - that’s literally billions of users right there just viewing one video, not taking into account the millions of other videos available on the platform. So it’s astounding to think that, what with the amount of people whose eyes are on the YouTube web page at any given time, the font change went largely unnoticed by the masses.
To be fair it is a very subtle change - the new font, Roboto, is very similar to Arial, the original font. Opinions amongst the few eagle eye users who spotted the change are quite split. Some say the new font was too light and not as clear. We personally appreciate the new font - although it’s only a small difference, it makes a nice change from Arial, which is the standard font utilised online. According to Owen Williams from The Next Web, Roboto is Google’s official font for Android, a mobile operating system developed by Google. What with Google’s purchase of YouTube in 2006, it makes sense for YouTube to adopt the standard Andriod font to match. Mind you… they took their time about it!
We’ll start with the font used on the actual web page. Back in March 2016, they went from a standard Helvetica to a slightly less used Geneva. We’re personally not sure why Facebook decided to change the font - you can see that once again there’s not a lot of difference, but we’re sure they have their reasons. The top image is the font before the change, followed by a screenshot of the same status after the font change:
Next, the logo. This change took place last year. Josh Higgins, Creative Director of Facebook, had this to say:
“When Facebook’s logo was first created in 2005, the company was just getting started and we wanted the logo to feel grown up and to be taken seriously. Now that we are established, we set out to modernize the logo to make it feel more friendly and approachable … and developed a custom typeface to reflect where we are now and where we are headed” - (Brand New, July 2015)
We think that says it all, and we think they achieved what they set out to do. The new font is slightly lighter in weight, and the letters are slightly more rounded, almost making the brand seem a little more ‘laid back’.
What with the colours of the logo remaining the same, as well as the iconic ‘f’ that you see in the shortened version of the logo, it’s no wonder that some people missed the change.
You may have noticed that our previous examples are all mainly online. It makea sense that the most subtle of font changes are made by online companies - these are quicker and more simple to execute. It would be much more costly for a brand whose logo and stationery were seen mainly on physical products or documents, and so if they’re going to change it, they must have a pretty damn good reason to do so. They might as well go big or go home.
Can you see the difference? No? How about now, when the new, blue font overlays the grey, old font:
Still no? The change is most noticeable on the 'h', can you see the grey? Yep, that’s it.
You must know how massive the London Undergound is - this font change will affect station signs, notices in the trains themselves, stationery, maps… that is a vast canvas that will need revamping. We’re currently unsure to what extent they will be implementing the newly designed font - Johnston100 - whether they will proactively change all existing examples of the current logo, or simply implement the new font for any new signs/stationery in future. But I bet you’re asking yourselves… why?!
Jon Hunter, head of Transport for London (TfL) design, stated that updating the typeface was ‘an important step forward’ in an age of social media and apps. So basically, they needed to create a #hashtag and an @ symbol in the new font so that they can use the font digitally, namely on social media. Whilst doing this, they also tweaked some of the lettering ever so slightly to make the font as digital-friendly as possible, as well as creating some extra-thin weighted versions of the font for use on mobile devices. TfL wanted to keep the ‘soul’ of the original lettering, as they are proud of the brand’s heritage - we can certainly appreciate that, and they have definitely managed to do this.
Google again! Strictly speaking this isn’t a font change, but we thought this was such a perfect example of the smallest of changes made to a logo that no one could ever possibly notice…
Remarkably, in this case, somebody did - and we have no idea how. In 2014, before Google’s new rebrand, they changed the kerning everso slightly, as shown in the below gif:
Incase you can’t see it, they altered the positioning of the second ‘g’ and the ‘l’ - and by alter, we’re talking about a one/two pixel shift for each. Google advised this was so the logo looks as sharp as possible, no matter the screen resolution. We think that Google simply wanted to make their logo look perfect. We know what that feels like, countless times have I moved images/text along one pixel at a time until I'm 100% satisfied with the final product. I thought I was just being picky - but I feel a lot better now that I know big players such as Google feel the same way!
Do you know any font changes that have passed you by but have since been made aware of? Or have you managed to spot an example yourself that wasn’t on our list? If so, let us know! If not, we'll keep an eye out for you...