Airbnb unveils new font to improve accessibility

4 min read
Emily Esposito
  •  May 16, 2018
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Bespoke is in. Bespoke fonts, that is.

Netflix introduced a custom font in March, joining Coca-Cola, IBM, General Electric, and Intel in designing new typefaces to unify branding and create a cohesive look across mediums.

Related: The big list of free typography resources

Yesterday, Airbnb became the latest company to join the Bespoke Club with its launch of Airbnb Cereal, a new typeface set in six weights to increase readability across its website, app, and print materials.

So you’re probably wondering what cereal has to do with short-term rentals. The name of the new font is a throwback to a campaign created by the Airbnb founders in 2008. They designed and sold collectible, branded cereal based on Barack Obama and John McCain before the presidential election.

“Cereal saved the company and inspired a core value to think about solving problems in unexpected ways—it was a natural choice when naming our own [typeface],” said Airbnb in a Design Week article.

From billboard to button

The Airbnb team worked with foundry Dalton Maag to create the new typeface. The goal was to create “something clean, but with enough quirk to exude friendliness,” as described in Fast Co Design.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the biggest challenge was designing a single font family that could be used in two opposite scenarios: a lighter font for UI and a heavier one for display.

“Our mantra was, ‘From billboard to button,’” said Alex Schleifer, Airbnb’s head of design, in Fast Co Design.

That’s even harder when type design software doesn’t usually deal with master fonts that vary from one extreme to the other. The solution? Dalton Maag drew a third master font that had a bit of both sides: Narrow and bold in just the right balance, helping the software easily translate between all the other weights.

Check out Cereal for yourself

Airbnb Cereal will start rolling out over the next few months across smartphone apps, their website, and sub-sites like its Newsroom, followed by print materials. It is currently available in 12 languages, but the plan is to grow that to 25 families, from Russian to Chinese, in the next two years.

And, according to Schleifer, Airbnb definitely won’t be the last company to go this route.

Typographic systems are the key to any designTwitter Logo, and it’s become more important to create a font that supports all your touchpoints in a clearer way,” he said in Fast Co Design. “That’s why you’re going to see a lot more organizations thinking about it.”

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