Gotham Narrow (specifically the ScreenSmart version, designed for small sizes on screen) has sensible visual design
attributes for Twitter’s needs, as Paul describes in his answer, so I think it’s a decent stylistic choice. Some might find Gotham overused, but I think readability trumped unique branding
in this case. And Gotham is indeed a readability improvement
over Neue Helvetica, both in terms of the typeface (open apertures, looser spacing), and cross-platform rendering performance and consistency (Windows users tell me that Arial, not Helvetica is served to their browsers).
On the other hand, there are other “neutral” typefaces that are extremely legible/readable
and are not overused — JAF Bernini Sans
, for example.
Image from Hoefler & Co. comparing Gotham Narrow ScreenSmart Light and Helvetica. Screenshot from Chrome
36.0.1985.18 beta on Mac OS X.
So, I think Gotham Narrow is ok for this use. I do question, however, the choice of the Light weight versus the Book weight (see below). This seems to be less of a practical decision and more a follower of the current (iOS 7 spawned
) fad for lightweight type.
Image from Hoefler & Co. comparing Gotham Narrow ScreenSmart Book and Helvetica.
The more significant drawback may be in Gotham’s character set. As far as I can tell, Gotham ScreenSmart covers only Latin-based languages. What it’s missing is Cyrillic, Arabic, Indic scripts, and other major writing systems that are common on Twitter
. Of course, these will be substituted by a system font and work ok (despite the awkwardness illustrated below), but a comprehensive solution would spec a font that can support all the most common languages used on the platform. Incidentally, I see that Hoefler & Co.’s Whitney is further along in language support
, and would also be a good choice for readability and versatility.
Note the incongruity of Gotham Narrow Light and the fallback fonts (in this case, Lucida Grande for Cyrillic and Geeza for Arabic).
Perhaps a Gotham language
extension is in the works. It’s just a pity Gotham’s designer, Tobias Frere-Jones, won’t
be part of that project.See question on Quora