Sunday, March 23, 2014

Facebook Sans

The internet, like any organism, self-regulates while experimenting chaotically, and thus it lumbers forward. Design paradigms go from brand new to ubiquity relatively rapidly, and our eyeballs become inured to a sense of how things ought to look. It’s a right-handed universe, and whole vistas we take for granted and don’t even register become visual and functional battlefields when designers make the slightest change.


Ask anyone what typeface Facebook uses (or Twitter, or Gmail, for that matter), and you’ll get a lot of dead air. This is good. This means the typeface is doing its job, which is to disappear from our consciousness. But the day Facebook (or anyone else) makes a design change — whoa. The whole world suddenly seems out of whack. Ask someone what the new typeface Facebook is officially “experimenting” with and they won’t know; but ask them to describe it, and they might say “blocky,” or “smaller, easy to read.” How does it differ from what it was the day before? We’ve already forgotten.


Facebook has indeed changed their type design; the site is now aggressively sans serif Helvetica small type, regular weight and bold in blue. Except for large headlines from shared news posts; they’re old-school looking, in a deliberately noticeable serif. Does it seems familiar to you? It should. It’s the same type that Google uses, and the same type Twitter uses. The internet hangout has become Swiss.