Since its release in 2011, the Roboto font has expanded to include multiple variations and just got a reading-optimized serif version in February. Roboto Flex was officially unveiled today as a “major upgrade” and “Google Fonts’ biggest project yet.”
Roboto has several claims to fame including being the most popular default download on Android and Google Fonts. Over the past 11 years, it has developed into several variants: Roboto Sans, Condensed, Slab, Mono and Serif.
Commissioned by Google, it was created by Font Bureau and suffered five years of “ development.” Roboto Flex is a variable font that allows for immense customization:
“Compress” refers to their file compression capabilities, while “express” and “fineness” aim to give users a wider palette (“express”) and more control (“fineness”) over their designs. The advantages of express and finesse are made possible by the “axes” of a variable font, which allow users to choose and combine any value, instead of being limited to the limited options set by the designers of fonts.
The differences between the original sans Roboto and the Roboto Flex at its default size (14) are subtle:
Font Bureau’s quality standards appear in a few subtle updates to Roboto’s neo-grotesque sans design, including the shift from the default digital style from tabular to proportional lining; and to ensure that the zeros in the percent symbol do not deviate from the ordinary numeric zero design.
Other highlights include a “vast range of weights and widths across a full stack of optical sizes”, while user axis customization covers weight, width, tilt, quality and optical sizes, the italics being managed by an “equivalent oblique axis”.
Finally, Roboto Flex offers seven parametric axes (counter width, thin line, lowercase height, uppercase height, ascender height, descender depth, figure height):
But what if you want even more control? What if you want to make granular changes, like only increasing the stroke weight of your characters or decreasing the depth of your lowercase descenders? What if you want to harmonize the heights of two different fonts? This is where parametric axes come in.
Open source, Roboto Flex is available for download from Google Fonts in Latin, Greek and Cyrillic today.
Designed by Font Bureau, David Berlow, Santiago Orozco, Irene Vlachou, Ilya Ruderman, Yury Ostromentsky, Mikhail Strukov
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