Retina Font Choices

A really interesting article, and quasi-review, of the retina MacBook Pro from John Gruber. In it he dives into why (to his eye and mine) text looks so much better on the retina MacBook Pro than it does on the retina iOS screens — especially given the fact that the retina MacBook Pro has a lower PPI count than its iOS counterparts.

Gruber also brings up an interesting point about font choices, saying:

Regarding font choices, you not only need not choose a font optimized for rendering on screen, but should not. Fonts optimized for screen rendering look cheap on the retina MacBook Pro — sometimes downright cheesy — in the same way they do when printed in a glossy magazine.

The font I use on this site is FF Meta Web, it has been designed to be used on the web, which means it has been optimized for screen rendering. I personally don’t think it looks “cheap,” but I agree that many fonts (like Lucida Grande) do look rather cheap on such a display.

More interesting is that during a font change on this site a couple weeks ago, I was toying with a lighter font weight to better accommodate retina displays. What I found in my testing was that the lighter font weight looked perfect on the iPad (3), difficult to read on the iPhone 4S, nice on non-retina screens, and decent but not highly-comfortable on the retina MacBook Pro.

It was because of this testing that I only use the lighter weights in navigation menus and block quotes. It is also because of the retina MacBook Pro, that for the first time since switching to FF Meta Web, I am thinking about moving to a new font.

The problem though: what font?

I need a font that simultaneously looks great on non-retina screens, on retina iOS screens, and on retina Mac screens — and I really don’t think such a font exists. So, for as much as I am against “mobile versions” of sites, I am beginning to wonder if each device should have a font specifically targeted for that device. Right now I don’t think retina displays are prevalent enough to worry about this, but I doubt that will be true come 2013.

Originally posted for members on: August 14, 2012
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