Category: developers journal

Android Roboto = Linux Ubuntu

Author: Daemon October 20, 2011

The new Android version, Ice Cream Sandwich, comes with the new default font:


The mighty “Roboto” and the mighty PR crap someone thought will diminish the fact that the font is an ugly construct of a few different typefaces. As the good folks at Typographica well put; because the font is a mixed salad of a few different font styles, depending on what word comes up on the screen the font will give away different “feeling”. I will let you read the really good article at Typographica first. Go, do it. DO IT.


I am not sure why would someone call a Humanist/Grotesque looking font “Roboto”, especially because it is on the platform called Android. The Android platform just calls for the Commander Data looking font. Something readable, yet mechanical. Guess Google has yet to figure that one out.

Now that you are aware of why “Roboto” sucks, here is what I have to say about it.

Letters and words form the majority of data we intake while using any digital platform. Yes, icons are there as well, as are pictures and video and even sound, but the vast majority of our interaction with digital platforms comes through words. Therefore, the font and the overall typography we look at is incredibly important.

Now, let’s digress a little.

Linux Ubuntu desktop operating system has been around for years now. And every year Ubuntu developers swear that this is the year Ubuntu will overtake desktop market. And it never does. There are two main reasons it will never be (in the foreseen future) a force to be reckoned with in home desktop computing. First: it has lousy hardware support. Buy a new device, and chances are it will not be able to interface properly with Ubuntu.

Second: it looks ugly. Yes Ubuntu lovers, it looks ugly as hell. Not just the visual appeal, I am talking deeper. Even built-in applications are completely non-standardized. Buttons [Cancel] and [OK] vary in location from application to application. It is a logical and visual mess. And why is it so? Because designers do not use it.

Designers do not use it – therefore, there is noone competent to complain and maybe even suggest how to fix it – therefore, it will stay ugly. It is a closed circuit.

Back to Roboto and Android.

Android is ugly, and even tho Ice Cream Sandwich looks really nice at a glance, with Roboto it just got ugly again. No self-respecting designer will even look at that phone now because every word will look weird. Let’s skip all the other details how Android is still laggy even tho it sports dual core processor and all that “under the hood stuff”. It is just ugly. I do not know a single designer that uses Android phone. I know a lot of programmers that use it tho (same as Ubuntu).

Designers do not use it – therefore, there is noone competent to complain and maybe even suggest how to fix it – therefore, it will stay ugly. It is a closed circuit.


    3 thoughts on “Android Roboto = Linux Ubuntu”

  • Im not a designer,but the ROBOTO font looks far better than any font that ive used on the phone.Also the lagginess was due to early builds running on the phone.Engadget reported that as well.but the newer builds are very smooth it seems.

  • Focus in only one thing, instead of dumping shit randomly without compelling arguments.

  • Sorry, I thing you jumped on a fallacy there.

    1- Roboto looks very good on the phone.

    On. The. Phone. On Android. On. Android. Everybody is liking it. People migrating from iOS does not have an issue.

    2- As a designer, you elected design as one of two reasons for OS success.

    Well, understandable but wrong, as the desktop wars proved it before the smartphone wars.

    3- Finally, your analogy is flawed, fallacious and only hides your real goal: exercise your futurology about Android failure.

    The was NO REASON at all to bring Ubuntu and its market share to this if not to infer that the reason (ugliness) that made Ubuntu fail on the desktop will make Android fail (in the future, because current trends negate your argument).

    Very, very easy fallacy to detect. Otherwise, you’d have compared to Windows and its ugly Arial, a much closer analogy (both OSes are leaders in share, both have an ugly copycat font etc.). But, of course, comparing to Windows would actually paint a more favorable comparison to Android and its revival of the desktop wars, which seems to be the opposite of your true goal in that article. Sorry if that’s looks harsh, but that’s my impression after that flawed analogy when there were much more obvious and pertinent options to compare against.

    4- Don’t talk about why Android requires more processing power.

    First of of, that link is laughable. It’s just a bunch of “Mac, iPhone and iPad” (as it says) people whining about Android. It’s laughable and evident. A bunch of people trying to throw rocks at Android’s window for any reason. Well, I believe it’s because Android’s success (and Windows Phone, who knows) may reduce their market opportunities in the future. They may soon find themselves reduced to a niche, just like people who designed for Macintoshes of yesterday.

    As a designer, you (and them) clearly don’t understand why, besides other things, Android had to be engineered to run everywhere, from phones to toasters to compact cameras to TVs, making modern tech closer to the dream of ubiquity computing.

    That is contrary to the designer platform of choice that is iOS, an elephant balancing over a ball that falls apart just because you put it to run on a marginally different resolution or a different aspect ratio.

    Yes, there was a lag, but it’s constantly improving. Besides, again, contrary to the illusion circus of iOS, where the UI runs in privileged threads, making the real tasks run slower (ever noticed iOS taking too much time to load something even though it’s still snappy? Again, the illusion circus). Work around human senses. “Magic”.

    If you want to talk about bad things on Android, please let me in, because as an Android user (former iPhone 4 user), I know quite some. But please, if you do, try harder next time.

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