Fonts are critical in creating style and identity within a user interface. Every car model has its own unique voice and emotion that the car manufacturer wants to evoke. The way the car is designed, and even the screens within the car and the information displayed on those screens, is working to elicit that voice and emotion. This feeling, however, must be balanced with the on-screen content. The job of good type — and a good type designer — is to make sure that information is conveyed in a type that represents the car’s unique sensibility, and is at the same time legible and easy to read in a short glance. In applications where concentration is paramount — such as driving a car — choosing a font that is legible and readable is not just about branding — it might also help reduce driver distraction.

The optimization of visual information across all aspects of the vehicle interior (instrument cluster, telematics displays, heads-up displays, etc.) and in a wide variety of user interface styles (radio, mapping, diagnostics, etc.) might reduce demand on the operator and free-up resources for the primary operation of the vehicle. “Connected” vehicles that share internet access to other devices both inside and outside the vehicle add additional screens to this consideration. Branding and legibility issues transfer to, and from, these additional devices as well.

While the link between font design and readability may be obvious to experts in font design, it’s not always been so for automotive manufacturers.

Choosing a typeface for in-vehicle displays presents a host of challenges that include the key concerns of today’s automotive design teams:

  • brand integrity
  • legibility
  • creative design
  • ease of implementation
  • aesthetic quality
  • user experience
  • memory footprint
  • global language support

These design teams are seeking to achieve the highest level of text legibility on screen and to maximize the branded experience, while their engineers are making sure the HMI looks great on any platform or screen, regardless of resolution.