Gmail is switching its default font to one that works better on mobile (Quartz, April 14, 2018)

You’re probably sick of the Arial font, even if you don’t know it. As the default Gmail font—known as “sans-serif” in the Gmail interface—it’s the medium through which you’ve received years of spam, bills, entreaties from needy family members, and demands from bosses and colleagues.

Now the reign of Arial may be coming to a close. Earlier this week, The Verge and Android Authority reported that they’d obtained internal Google emails about an impending Gmail redesign. The Gmail product, despite (or perhaps because of) its popularity and ubiquity, hasn’t been redesigned since 2011, eons in internet years. The expected facelift appears to include a number of functional changes, including a “snooze” feature, that will temporarily remove a selected email from your inbox and then return  later, and more unified integration with Google Calendar.

But for font nerds, the big news is about the display. The Gmail interface font (menu items, for example) will change from Arial to Product Sans, while the default font for email and messages will change from Arial to Roboto. Both Product Sans and Roboto are fonts created by Google, and, if the leaked redesign comes to fruition, they’ll be a welcome change.

Product Sans is a Futura-like font that Google designed in 2015 for branding purposes; you may recognize it from the current Google logo, which replaced the old, serif-font logo also in 2015. Roboto resembles Arial or Helvetica; Google has been iterating on the font since 2011. It’s now the primary font in the Android operating system and, if the Gmail redesign is any indication, likely to become Google’s default across all its platforms.

Product Sans will be a relatively light design touch for things like headers and menus, but Roboto will impact the majority of words that hundreds of millions of people read every day. So it’s worth thinking about how our digital experiences of Gmail will change now that Arial’s out and Roboto’s in.

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