How Tall Fonts are Changing Mobile Interface Design

Posted on October 8, 2012

Smartphones are tall and thin. Especially the new iPhone 5 that is taller than previous versions, and therefore relatively thinner.

So therefore, should fonts that are used on smartphones be fat and round? Most fonts used on a screen, and the first computer screens were a square shape, are roughly square. Hence one can ask the question of whether it makes sense for smartphone fonts to be square or tall?

Designers are increasingly opting for tall. This means that you can get not only more text on the screen on a line, but with the white space between characters more visually aligned with the size of the smartphone’s screen. This leads hence to a more comfortable viewing experience.

A great example of how this principal has been applied is the Feedly RSS application. Especially applied on the titles, the taller fonts make the screen look well proportioned and airy. The trap with this type of application is often to try and cram too much information on the screen and not leave enough white space around. Using taller fonts provides the appearance of more white space and hence more air.

Losing Menu Bars

Another trend that is increasingly being used in mobile application design is to reduce the emphasis on the top menu bar. Since the introduction of the iPhone, the standard design paradigm has been to have a title bar at the top, a menu/icon bar at the bottom and interaction/content at the bottom.

What we’re seeing increasingly is a reduction in the use of top and bottom menu bars, or at very least a reduction in their place on the screen. Feedly has implemented this well in their latest design.

The End of the Menu bar

One of the first applications to remove the menu bar was Path by putting options under the main screen. The main screen is then slid over to the right showing the options.

This works very well for secondary or third priority options and functions. However, for primary use-cases, this hides the main features a bit too much.