When Apple launched the Watch, it also designed a new system font to go with it: San Francisco. The typeface was specifically designed to combine a clean look with readability on the small display of the Apple Watch.

We exclusively revealed last week that Apple doesn’t intend to limit San Francisco to the watch: it instead plans to adopt the new typeface for Macs, iPhones and iPads. San Francisco is expected to replace Helvetica Neue as part of iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. Designer Wenting Zhang features the font in a look at “the beautiful details of the type forms that often get overlooked” … 

The Type Detail project is aimed at typography fans, so you won’t find explanations of the technical terms use in the visual analysis, but it does reveal a few of the details that make San Francisco easy to read even in very small sizes.

One of the keys to readability is what is described as the large x-height: lower-case letters are around 75% of the height of capitals, making lower-case letters larger than in a typical font. The ‘eye’ of letters like e and a – the gap between the tail and the rest of the letter – are also larger than usual.

The site shows what the typeface looks like in a range of sizes, weights and styles, and says that it is similar to Open Sans and Arial.

Don’t expect too many new features in either iOS 9 or OS X 10.11: multiple sources tell our Mark Gurman that both updates will focus more on quality and stability than headline features. If you don’t want to wait for OS X 10.11, you can download a modified version of the font now and install it as your system font in Yosemite.


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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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