More legible text is an obvious safety benefit, allowing carmakers to provide information that drivers can glance at quickly and understand. But scalable typefaces for automotive applications required tons of processing power that didn’t allow such a safety benefit in less expensive cars. Now Monotype has developed a scaleable typeface without a huge processing requirement.
If you’re an ordinary Joe/Jane, you’ve spent a total of about nine seconds in your life thinking about fonts and typefaces, and most of that was spent on whether Comic Sans was appropriate for a sign on the fridge at the office. But typefaces are a big deal, especially when you think about how much more readable modern auto dashboards are, and how much better they could be.
You wouldn’t think so, but something as simple as the typeface on your dashboard requires a lot of work. They’re typically been hardcoded, bitmapped solutions that require storing every single character in every single size. Every time a car manufacturer wants to change anything, the process starts all over again, requiring expensive rework. The fonts aren’t scalable, either, meaning that making them legible in smaller font sizes has been impossible.
It hasn’t been much of an issue for automakers at the high end (like the Audi Virtual Dashboard shown above) but for less expensive production cars, it means that we’re all driving around with legibility that was about as good as it was going to get.
Woburn, Massachusetts-based Monotype knows fonts. It has a library that includes Helvetica, for example, a font so important in the last 50 years that an entire documentary was devoted to it. Seriously, it’s worth watching.
The company knew that car makers and builders of other devices required more legible fonts at a much smaller size, but it also knew that those companies couldn’t invest the kind of money that required on less expensive products.
Monotype’s iType Spark software brings a completely scalable font solution that allows for much greater flexibility, allowing last-minute changes and support for multiple languages, sizes and character sets.
“Today’s consumer demands a high-quality UI on their devices – whether it’s the dashboard in their car, their new wearable fitness device or medical device like an insulin pump,” said Geoff Greve, vice president of type operations at Monotype. “Until now, designers and engineers were limited in their ability to create a flexible, scalable text display in low and mid-end devices without doing a substantial amount of work or investing a lot of money in additional hardware or memory. Our new Monotype Spark solution not only makes the type on these devices more beautiful, but it also enables product manufacturers to keep development costs low and create an easy path to scale devices to support new languages and character sets in the future.”
It enables engineers to support complex and bidirectional scripts such as Arabic, Thai and Devanagari, all with a significantly smaller load on run-time RAM. The result is a low-cost, high-quality, scalable interface for drivers that haven’t had access to such legible readouts before.
Cars like the 2015 Audi TT have shown how a legible dash can be configured, but the NVIDIA solution in that car is reserved for cars at the high end of the price spectrum. The Monotype solution drives the cost down not only to make such legibility accessible for carmakers, but even wearable device manufacturers and the company that makes your clothes dryer.