New York: what type and graphic designers think about this Apple release

Apple introduced a free serif to pair its San Francisco typeface. We collected some feedback on the release

June 20, 2019

Yuri Gordon, Letterhead Studio

It is an excellent system font: easy to read, well developed, reasonably modern, with its own personality — it’s new, but not in a brazen kind of way. It wins over Times New Roman hands down.

The font’s cyrillics is rather balanced. Apart from its Дд, Цц, Щщ serifs, nothing to complain about. Fits perfectly in the Apple system environment.

If you ask me, a huge win for the company, and developers.


New York Extra Large Black Italic

Valery Golyzhenkov, Letterhead Studio

Now, iOS developers can choose between San Francisco and New York. All the others have to carefully read the license before using a new font in their projects (Apple’s licensing terms do limit use of the font to mockups of user interfaces for iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS — Editor).

Eugene Yukechev, Type Jounal

I was really upset by the New York font’s release. And it is not just Cyrillic — where I clearly have a number of conventional questions to ask, — but the Latin alphabet as well. At first glance, New York’s image gives you a vague impression of being a child of a fornication liason of a Scottish Georgia with a modern Dutch serif. Well, no accounting for taste. And the domain of images is a flimsy ground.


But any type has more objective parameters, which are of paramount importance and priority when it comes to say “yes” or “no” to a certain font. Like the line rhythm, accuracy of letter spacings, or balance and proportion of the characters. The first conclusion on rhythm can be made judging by how two of its letters, н and о, behave in different situations:


With NY, the rhythm of о letters is more sparse, thinned than the rhythm of н letters’ — which in mixed contexts (last row) can result in some sort of unpleasant beating in your half-deflated spare wheel. A huge thanks to Matthew Carter for providing a good example of how it’s done (right).

In practice this unfortunate lapse alone gives rise to multiple messy situations in the process of typesetting. — Since the sidebearings of н and о letters will be inherited by all straight and curved characters. As a result, words and rows fall apart — like they do in the word “ты-сяча”, — or there’ll be different rhythms co-existing in one word, — as in “сосредото-ченный”. One can easily imagine what the final text massive will eventually look like.


At the end of the day, this can (and does!) lead to controversies in terms of kerning: some pairs are over-kerned, others are under-kerned, causing the disruption of the overall typeset’s rhythmic balance.


And so on, and so forth. Other than that, I have problems with the type design, and with the balance in some uppercase Cyrillic symbols (although the situation appears somewhat better in the lowercase). It is difficult to resist the urge to once again compare the font with Georgia:


Now on “complicated cases”: Д and Л lack any personality whatsoever, with their shapes being dull and funny — Д and its weak legs, a pasty face of Л; a wide and nodding З; slipping У, Ц и Щ who are apparently uncomfortable with their own tails. And, finally, a case defying any reason — except for the negligence in diacritic job: those shrunken dots over the Ё — and a breve over the Й.

If today this is the best Apple Inc. has to offer, I have no further questions.

Yury Ostromentsky, CSTM Fonts

There are two bad news, and and a good one.

The bad news number one. When it comes to Apple, we always tend to expect technological, visual and conceptual breakthroughs. Anything they present is basically about the future — about the things we are going to use from now on, and in the next 10-20 years. This is what happens with all Apple devices, and this is what happened with San Francisco font — it arrived in the right place and at the right time. My guess is that NY font does not come on time. This is just not the way you design a serif nowadays: today’s serif fonts are sharper in graphics, freer in terms of the history — and much more careful on the details.

Whereas NY looks much like an update to Georgia by Matthew Carter, as an attempt to slightly modernize a default type. Anything but a projection into the future.

Now, the bad news number two. Sadly, NY has a Cyrillic problem. Sadly for us, I mean, — the wider world won’t even notice. The first thing that strikes you is a really weird approach to accented characters. Its Cyrillic breve in italics has a single terminal. A highly extravagant move, it is OK for display faces — but looks really weird with a plain text, interface font.

Plus, both in roman and italic, both breve and dieresis are very tiny. Then there’s this weird solution for the я letter in italics — with this character being already complicated enough as it is, I still think one could have managed to find a more accurate shape. Whereas now it is unduly joyful. Too short, hesitating bottoms at Д, Ц, Щ. Too unconfident, way too narrow У. As weird as it may sound, the lowercase looks far better than the uppercase.


New York Large Regular Italic

I also see lots of trouble with proportions, both in roman and italic. For instance, Љ, Њ are created based on the wrong proportions — the Л and Н parts should not be broader than the Ь element. Л and Д showing through. Narrow М.

Now and then you get the feeling of having an old-style serif typeface in front of you, with its particular sense of proportion. But then you look and H and O — for realizing that they still possess somehow close proportions. And this is not only with cyrillics. The roman alphabet, too, is characterized by too large symbols — like C,N,U, — neighboring the M which is likewise way too narrow.

Now let’s get to the good news. Apple, a trendsetter who tells us what our life is going to be like in the coming decade, releases a free serif. In 2019, the average consumer of font products — designer, editor, or a regular Internet user, — doesn’t go with the serif. He is intimidated by serif typefaces, not knowing how to deal with them, — therefore he won’t think about it. These days practically everyone, who is in charge of typesetting, holds a harmful and misconceived notion that sans serifs are easier to read. Hopefully, this release will change this perception.


New York Medium Regular

Toshi Omagari, Monotype UK

Alexey Murashko

On 12 June 2015, Apple Inc. launched with great fanfare its new typeface family, San Francisco. The corresponding product presentation informed the flock on the necessity to adapt fonts to today’s screens, on the existence of tabular figures and text figures, as well as on the possibility of aligning colons by heights of numericals with the use of OT-Feature. In fact, more typographically advanced typefaces — with a way deeper level of optimization when it comes to the screens, — were available on the most widely used platform in the world, Windows, as far back as ten years ago (ClearType Project). The release of New York font family continues a typography propaedeutics’ tradition adopted by developers and users of Apple’s ecosystem, explaining in simple terms the principles of optical size. That is, every cloud has its silver lining.

I see no point in elaborating on the quality of any particular glyphs — or a certain resemblance of some of the New York’s signs, and its character, to better-known examples. What might be more interesting, however, is the fact that a global company with a capitalization of almost a trillion dollars wasn’t able to produce a typeface which would cover at least basic Cyrillic, let alone Arabic or Hebrew. An awkward Cyrillic breve over an uppercase й is nothing compared to the absence of a short u (ў, 22th letter of Belarus alphabet, about 10 million users) — or a non-existing ghe with upturn (ґ, 5th letter of Ukranianian alphabet, about 45 million users). Luckily, the proprietary license, unavailability of a new font for using in older versions of Apple’s operating systems — and, more importantly, its non-availability outside of Apple’s ecosystem whatsoever, — blocks access to these fonts for many potential viewers.

In a few years, perhaps, thanks to some new upgrades, or releases of Apple fonts we will rediscover the multilingualism, dating back to Unicode’s era, or the small capitals (likewise, both were available on a certain rival platform a decade earlier).

As for now, we have to admit the poor quality of release — coupled with an awkward attempt to keep in secret the authorship by masking the names with multiple NDAs, — together with the fact that while other major IT-companies are paying for creation of well-developed types, sophisticated in terms of their faces and glyph sets (Google, IBM) and then distributing those under open licences (!), Apple Inc. prefers to go with a distribution model right from the 80s.


Cyrillic part of the codepage, New York Large Regular

Merdan Agayev,, designer

The need to pair San Francisco was long overdue. SF is a decent, good-quality typeface, technologically well-done, with a big family, having a separate set for small sizes, boasting of a vast number of characters, and so on. — If New York is like this, it is great. And as it was the case with San Francisco, NY is likely to be further developed, supplemented with more faces.

Normally, small startups don’t have enough money to afford the use of quality typesets, so the free fonts are proving to be a great help (and here I’m not talking Roboto) — and having a whole pair of fonts at your disposal is really something you can’t beat.

It seems very likely that this new font is a successor of an old typeface Apple Garamond. Since I’m old I remember it, and each time I look at this New York’s screenshots, I can feel the same spirit — or vibe, if you like. Seemingly a new thing, it has — like any other cool stuff, — its history.


Apple commercial, 1997

Danila Shorokh, Ctzn, Art-director

I think that’s great that Apple presents a serif. Perhaps, the fact will make both customers and designers finally ask themselves, whether there is a real need for creating yet another Gotham-like sans serif — or there is not. Screen resolution is getting increasingly higher with each day — already exceeding the printing resolution, — ensuring that the serif fonts will be just as good as sans serifs in terms of readability.

The font itself is very nice. I like extensive fonts, and the teardop terminals of its a and с are just wonderful. It makes me think of Meduza’s Regal — but clearer and more up-to-date. If I were them, I would have replaced Regal by New York right away.

Cyrillics are all right. I am no expert, but it surely looks decent and effective in typeset. You could tell that it is a first release, with more to come: for now it lacks light and display faces.

Yet, the font won’t stay here forever. Remember how Apple gave up on Garamond in their ads back then? And later — on Helvetica for their interfaces? The moment NY font becomes irrelevant, it will be replaced by something new.


New York Medium Semibold, New York Medium Black

Christopher Bergmann, isoletters

Maria Doreuli, Contrast Foundry

The font is great. I like the way its design paired the classics with rationality / technology. Clearly, it was a great deal of work. But more importantly, what we see here is that Apple Inc. is setting — at least, I hope it does! — a trend of shifting focus from sans serifs, currently dominating our interfaces, to serif ones. I’d really like to see more typographic diversity for our digital environment, and perhaps the arrival of this font is going to become another big step forward for designers in their experimentation.


New York Extra Large Regular

Sergey Rasskazov, ZEH Foundry

Apple Inc. is building an integrated unified typographic ecosystem, presenting it at the conferences, telling us about the emerging teсnology opportunities and so on. That is awesome, and helps promote the font industry. All the more so since the cutting-edge, technologically advanced fonts like this one are being made available to anyone for testing and experimentation. The naming is really cool, too. It was very thoughtful of Steve Jobs to call dibs on those type names for his business.

As concerns the quality of cyrillics, I recently started to be much more tolerant in this respect — no butthurt anymore. That said, NY font still contains a surprisingly large number of mistakes when it comes to cyrillics — given that the rest of its sign system is truly flawless, and very well-built. The modern, “after Peter the Great” cyrillic script was created in the age of classicism typefaces. It is hard to ruin our characters in this classic style — with so many examples in place, both historical and contemporary. Static shapes are inherent to the structure of cyrillic letters, we grew accustomed to them. It is a lot harder to design a humanist cyrillics. The authors committed plenty of mistakes — or perhaps they just were running out of time, and therefore had to hurry. The set turned out to be loose and slushy, inconclusive, especially as regards its uppercases — falling apart, not aligned with the lowercase. After a decent San Francisco, this font is much more controversial.

The good news is that NY typeface is embedded into Apple’s ecosystem, which means that the font will evolve, will be further developed — and hopefully, its Cyrillic version, too, eventually.


New York Large (Regular, Bold, Italic), New York Medium (Regular, Bold, Italic), New York Small (Regular, Bold, Italic)

Dan Reynolds, LucasFonts