This Is Apple's New Favourite Typeface

Apple had three favourite typefaces: Myriad, Lucida Grande and Helvetica Neue. Now there's a new favourite: Avenir. It has appeared simultaneously in Mac OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, which means you will see it featured in the next iPhone.

All these sans serif typefaces have a few things in common, but they each have a very distinctive look and feel.

Myriad

Back in 2002, Apple adopted Myriad as its corporate typeface. It replaced Apple Garamond, Cupertino's own version of the classic Garamond, a serif typeface that was everywhere — from the company logo to all of its computers, including every single model of Macintosh and PowerBook released until the eMac. It was so iconic that long-time Apple users protested when the company abandoned it.

Myriad is an Adobe typeface, created by Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly. You can find it in every single Apple product box, advertising and marketing material, even its own logotype. Some fonts of the Myriad typeface are included in OS X, but it is completely absent from fonts included with iOS.

Lucida Grande

Despite its prominence in Apple's corporate image, Myriad is not the typeface of choice for its iDevice or desktop operating systems. For the latter, Lucida Grande gets the nod — a sans serif that became the system font for OS X. It was designed by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes to replace another old timer: Chicago, a much-beloved screen font designed by Susan Kare for the original Macintosh operating system.

Like Myriad, Lucida Grande is not included in iOS.

Helvetica Neue

The third typeface is Helvetica Neue, which replaced Helvetica in iOS 4. Helvetica appeared for the first time in an Apple product on the iPhone 3G and the iPod touch. It was also a replacement for another typeface, called Podium Sans, which was the standard typeface for both the original iPhone and most of the iPods. The original iPod didn't include Podium Sans, but it had the good old Chicago.

Helvetica and Helvetica Neue are also included in OS X.

Avenir

And now there's Avenir, a Linotype typeface and Apple's new favourite. It was designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1988, inspired by two old-school typefaces created in the 1920s: Erbar by Jakob Erbar and Futura by Paul Renner.

It's the typeface of choice for two of the most important new features in iOS 6. First is the new Apple-created Maps, which is one of Apple's big gambles in some time. It's also included in the new screens of Siri. You can find it featured prominently in the restaurant recommendation page, for example.

Avenir is included in OS X too. In fact, you can find three typefaces of the family (Avenir, Avenir Next and Avenir Next Condensed), all in a variety of weights. Apple is not using it in any OS X application (or at least I can't find it anywhere).

Perhaps Apple will unify all of its system typefaces one day when iOS and OS X finally merge into one operating system. And perhaps that day everything will be in Avenir, although I hope not, since Helvetica Neue is much prettier and more legible.

And if you're wondering why it matters when a company chooses one typeface to replace another, just remember: it could have been Comic Sans.


Comments

    Avenir is not a million miles away from Segoe, which MS use in Metro.

    Doh... makes me feel like a lame hipster whose fave "unknown" band has suddenly been discovered by the masses.
    Forget you Avenir! :(

      I just had the same feeling D:

        Same here.

          As a design student, I'll be honest and say I've never used Avenir
          before... $20 upgrade for a set of excellent typeface. BARGAIN OF
          THE CENTURY. I say Avenir alone makes 10.8 worth my money :P

    OMG A NEW FONT! and i was just about to but a SGSIII, definitely holding out for the new iPhone now!

      You are not the right audience for this post :)

    Hurray a new font. $564 for the entire family too. Wow.

    Why can't fonts be like apps? Like $2 or something.

      there is a multitude of factors regarding this. I guess it comes
      down to, "because they can." that and when someone buys a typeface
      for $$ it'll be most likely used for commercial purposes, so paying
      $500 in royalties for something that can differentiate your brand
      from others isn't too bad.

    This just in. Apple has another new favourite font, 'Jokerman'

    its a good looking type face, i use it all the time. only thing is
    the 'A' can get a little out of shape when you get down to 10 and

    Helvetica appeared for the first time in an Apple product on the
    iPhone 3G and the iPod touch.

    I remember having Helvetica on our family's Mac Plus
    in 1986...

    You forgot to mention Chicago from the old O.S. It was rather nice
    too.

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