iTunes & Helvetica: Cast your vote

Chris Dean's picture

iTunes 11.0 uses Helvetica for its user interface. Cast your vote:

1 = Strongly dislike
2 = Dislike
3 = Neutral
4 = Like
5 = Strongly like

JamesM's picture

But on the positive side the interface is cleaner now and it seems faster.

Chris Dean's picture

Do you have a numerical vote?

Typogruffer's picture

Just installed iTunes on windows. I stopped using it when it became very slow and the audio quality sucked. I like the new interface(But I don't think it uses Helvetica on windows). I would give a 4. I like Zune interface but the fonts suck.

russellm's picture

my vote has to be 3.
... Helvetica being so completely neutral

JamesM's picture

I'll give it a 3. Normally I don't care for Helvetica much as it seems dated and overused, but in this case — perhaps it's the small point size — it doesn't bother me.

Chris Dean's picture

I honestly aim to share these results with Apple. How hard could it be to give the user the ability to select from a few different typefaces? Helvetica? Really? Just when we thought it had gone away, BAM! there it is, every time I want listen to Beethoven. In Helvetica. *sigh*

If you’re on twitter, tweet this thread.

Nick Shinn's picture

Be careful what you wish for.
Just as the software decides which genre a particular piece of music belongs to, it may well one day decide on a style of type for that genre. You would no doubt get Beethoven in Garamond or Perpetua, rather than Walbaum.

(Segueway to discussion of “original instruments”…)

JamesM's picture

> I honestly aim to share these results with Apple.

That's fine, but it'll probably be added to some master list of iTunes complaints, which will then be ranked by number of complaints, and font complaints will be at the bottom of the list.

You might have better luck if you send a letter directly to Jony Ive, who's now in charge of interface design. Don't know if he'd ever actually read it, but he's the guy you'd want to influence.

Chris Dean's picture

*chuckle* Very good one Nick. Feeling a little blue today. Thanks for the good laugh.

Chris Dean's picture

Is Jony Ive in charge of UI for itunes, or UI for apple in general. Not familiar with the name.

JamesM's picture

Jonathan "Jony" Ives is the Vice President of Industrial Design. For many years he's been responsible for the design of their hardware (iMacs, iPods, iPads, etc), but software interfaces were handled in another department run by VP Scott Forstall.

After Forstall got the boot a few weeks ago, Ives was put in charge of interface design. So now he'll control both product design and interface design. The choice of Helvetica was undoubtedly made under Forstall's watch, but Ives will control future font decisions.

http://www.apple.com/pr/bios/jonathan-ive.html

hrant's picture

Isn't Ive the guy who pushed through the defective external antenna? Talk about form over function... And you want him to worry about proper font choice?

But Chris, really, nobody at Apple gives a hoot about this survey. They made Chalkboard for chrissake.

Plus music is over-rated. And don't get me started on lyrics.

hhp

JamesM's picture

Hrant, we don't know if Ives was even aware of that technical problem prior to product release. In any event, he should be judged by his total body of work, which is amazing and award-winning.

Chris Dean's picture

@Nick: Specifically Piano Sonata No. 8. I used to be able to play this as a teenager. Stoping playing piano was probably the dumbest decision I ever made. That, and starting to smoke in junior-high because I thought it would make me “popular.” Whever the f*** that means…

And if I seem grumpy lately/in the near future it’s because I’m trying to quit. Again.

Back to voting!

Chris Dean's picture

They made Chalkboard for chrissake.”

Touché.

But Jobs openly admitted on several occasions that the fact he got into typography very early in his life had a profound impact on his appreciation for good design.

hrant's picture

James, issues with external antennas were already well-documented, for example by Nokia and Blackberry. There is no way Apple in general and Ive in particular* were unaware of the potential for failure. The problem is that Apple in general is too concerned with Form, and Ive does fit that mold; you can't trust them with type (which is my main point). Another problem though is that Apple has a secrecy fetish, which results in a dearth of beta-testing (note also the maps fiasco).

* It's quite ironic BTW that Ive's "pretty" design ended up having to be concealed under so many gaudy third-party cases. Although intentionally making the screen easy to crack doesn't help...

Chris, Jobs did use typography as a springboard. But then he moved to platform diving and even stopped changing the chlorine in our pool.

hhp

JamesM's picture

I think the problem was not that they knew about the problem and ignored it, but rather they weren't aware of the extent of the problem due to their testing methods.

Trusted Apple employees were given the prototype phone in a specially-designed case to make it look like the older model, so they could test it in public. However the presence of the case greatly reduced the problem. I have one of those models, and when you put it in a case the problem goes away.

Should they have caught the problem earlier? Yes. But I doubt if Ives was even aware that the problem existed.

> Apple in general is too concerned with Form...
> you can't trust them with type

I don't understand that comment.

hrant's picture

To me reading and "pretty" don't go together.

hhp

aluminum's picture

"The problem is that Apple in general is too concerned with Form"

It may have been that they erred on the side of form with that particular bit of engineering, but overall, Apple is concerned with user experience. Which is a combination of both the form and the function.

hrant's picture

Apple is concerned with user experience

But to me only in the shallowest way - the way that leads to sales. And reading simply isn't very profitable.

hhp

aluminum's picture

"But to me only in the shallowest way - the way that leads to sales."

The intent of focusing on user experience is to provide a product people like using. I'm not sure if UX gets much deeper than that. In the end, it's usually all about sales. For better or worse.

hrant's picture

Actually I believe user interface is the deepest thing we can design. But all we see now (with Apple leading) is stupid finger swipes. Because that's easy to sell. Challenging users to really leverage their abilities is not.

And I think some companies manage to move up from the only-sales-matters mindset. MS used to be all about money, but look at Bill Gates now. Look at the type MS has been giving us. Apple type? Like I said, Chalkboard. :-/

hhp

aluminum's picture

"Challenging users to really leverage their abilities is not"

Not sure what you mean.

"MS used to be all about money, but look at Bill Gates now"

MS is still all about money.

I guess you're getting at bigger philosophical thoughts in terms of what the roles of corporations should be in society. I imagine I'd probably agree with your stance on most of it.

oldnick's picture

Does the expression "Who gives a rat's ass?" strike a familiar note?

Here comes de judge, here comes de judge...

oldnick's picture

Does the expression "Who gives a rat's ass?" strike a familiar note?

Here come de judge, here come de judge...

JamesM's picture

Bill Gates retired from daily involvement several years ago and is now heavily involved in charity work. Good for him, but that's his personal actions, not the company's.

Microsoft as a company is still very money-oriented; in fact a frequent criticism of CEO Steve Balmer is that he's been too focused on maintaining their cash cows of Windows and the Office Suite while failing to keep up with the innovations of their competitors. And its not just critics of the company that have said that; some of their strongest supporters have also complained about that.

Thomas Phinney's picture

1

Of course, the problem isn't that it's the iTunes font. The problem is that it is also the iOS main system font. Insanity.

JamesM's picture

Which fonts would be better choices?

Chris Dean's picture

I’d pick Chicago if I could. Wheres my 8-track player?

Thomas Phinney's picture

James: My objection is primarily to the very closed apertures in Helvetica. Most any humanist sans serif would do better. They were already using Myriad as a corporate typeface, it would have been just fine. Your own Clearview would have been great.

JamesM's picture

> James...Your own Clearview would have been great

Actually I'm not James Montalbano. I'm a different JamesM.

Thomas Phinney's picture

That's funny. I've been assuming you were him for a little while now! I guess I should have clicked on your user name. My bad.

JamesM's picture

No problem; I've made similar mistakes here when names are similar.

George Horton's picture

1 for Helvetica at small sizes, and 1.5 for Lucida Grande. To me the latter seems unjustifiably smug in its humane-late-modernism, because of the coarseness of, for instance, the way the bowls get away from stems on bpdq. (That's not to accuse the designers of smugness; I'm sure they're not. And my misperception of Lucida Grande is probably rare, but it is fairly intense.)

Si_Daniels's picture

Which fonts would be better choices?

A font formed from twigs or perhaps that looks like it's carved from panther pelt wall hangings would be more fitting. ;-)

Chris Dean's picture

Someone also started a thread on the Apple Support Communities discussion board about changing the font in iTunes 11.0:

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4554797?start=0&tstart=0

hrant's picture

Lucida Grande ... seems unjustifiably smug in its humane-late-modernism

Superbly put.

hhp

Jens Kutilek's picture

With the help of the discussion thread linked by Chris, I changed my iTunes fonts to the Segoe UI family :)

https://twitter.com/jenskutilek/status/275236961424388096/photo/1

apankrat's picture

What's iTunes?

Chris Dean's picture

So it worked? Sweet! Chicago, here I come!

marcox's picture

3. Neutral.

iTunes isn't immersive reading. Helvetica is entirely adequate for the job.

Té Rowan's picture

@apankrat – It's Apple's music business and related software.

JamesM's picture

The "iTunes" name originally fit the product better when it was just a jukebox music application. But over the years it's grown into a general-purpose media control app, used to shop for and organize all kinds of media (movies, books, apps, tv shows, etc). Also used to control syncing of iPhones or iPads to your computer.

hrant's picture

Yes, "iAmYourMaster" would be better.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

As they used to say: Every app grows until it can read mail.

Typogruffer's picture

As they used to say: Every app grows until it can read mail.

I actually laughed out loud after reading this. Nice one sir!

Typogruffer

.00's picture

Thomas,
James Montalbano here.

Apple did contact me about licensing ClearviewHwy, but we were unable to come to terms. I think they may have wanted to use it in the Map application now that I see what the UI looks like. But they were very vague about where and how they wanted to use it.

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