Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

From Switzerland to San Francisco

Me, a month ago:

What’s the over/under on iOS 9 and OS X getting San Fransisco as a universal system font?

(The one thorn in this theory is OS X: it just changed to Helvetica Neue. Would Apple do two system font changes in two years? I don’t necessarily think they’d be dissuaded from it; I suspect the main reason OS X doesn’t use San Fransisco today is because it wasn’t finished in time, or they wanted to debut it on the Watch.)

Mark Gurman, with a brand new rumour:

Apple is currently planning to use the new system font developed for the Apple Watch to refresh the looks of iPads, iPhones, and Macs running iOS 9 “Monarch” and OS X 10.11 “Gala,” according to sources with knowledge of the preparations. Current plans call for the Apple-designed San Francisco font to replace Helvetica Neue, which came to iOS 7 in 2013 and OS X Yosemite just last year, beginning with a June debut at WWDC.

Apple’s regulatory filings for the Watch are partially typeset in San Francisco. The keycaps of the 12-inch MacBook are set in San Francisco. Publicity and marketing materials are still, by and large, set in Myriad Pro (typically the lighter-weight variant).1 It’s not quite the One True Font I thought it might be from the outset, but it’s getting there.

When it was released with WatchKit, I tried San Francisco as my OS X system font and found it even harder to read than Helvetica Neue. I suspect this is because the version I used was optimized for the Watch; I have hope that the version used on OS X will be optimized for that system, including for non-Retina displays. I’m very excited to see how this works.

I suspect San Francisco will be fine on the iPhone because it has a similar-density display as the Watch, with similar physical text sizes.


  1. Apple still typesets their brands in Myriad everywhere they use them, with the exception of the Watch. Even the new MacBook, with its San Francisco keycaps, has a Myriad-set “MacBook” insignia below the display. This could simply be a legacy thing, or it could be for consistency with the rest of the MacBook line, but I think the Watch might be the only product where its marketing materials use the same font as its UI. ↩︎