Co.Design

There's Finally A Modern Typeface For Programmers

Input is a "matter-of-fact" font optimized for coders, not writers.

Whether you're coding apps or banging out short stories, the typeface you choose to write in is important. But most typefaces out there are designed with writers, and not coders, in mind. A new typeface by digtal studio Font Bureau is trying to change that. Called Input, it's designed with programming apps in mind, but which can still be used by people who wouldn't know a line of C++ from a command line.

When writers choose a font, they generally do so because of the character it imparts to their text. But for coders it's the opposite: they want a font that is generally characterless, so as not to obfuscate the massive bodies of code. Consequently, most coders prefer retro-style monospaced fonts, where each character takes up the exact same amount of horizontal space. Because a single typo can mess everything up, these simple, monospaced fonts make code a lot easier to read. They also make it easy for coders to do things like format discrete columns in their code for comments on the right side of a page.

But monospaced fonts also have drawbacks. These fonts are often low resolution, having been designed for antique computer terminals, and when used on modern machines, can be hard on the eyes during marathon programming sessions. And while monospacing offers uniform indentation and large punctuation, it also makes typos much harder to spot when skimming code, since, when dealing with multiple lines of similar code, a line of bad code and a line of good code will be exactly the same width.

The idea behind Input was to come up with a typeface that took its virtues and aesthetic cues from monospaced pixel fonts that coders already use, but to cast off the technical limitations that constrained them. The designer of Input, David Jonathan Ross, started by designing Input as a pixel font, drawing each letter on a standard 11-pixel grid, as if it were a super low resolution font for the computers of yesteryear. After settling on the proportions, Ross then drew the outlines of the finished letter on top of each grid, so he could create a typeface that would look just as good on modern devices.

The result is quite appealing. Input feels like a coding font, especially in regards to its almost mechanical curves and completely straight sides. But at the same time, Input feels very modern: It actually comes in 168 different syles, with multiple widths, optional serifed and sans serif varieties, and can be displayed in both monotype and proportional styles, making it a best-of-both-worlds font for the career coder. But it can also be used by writers who like to let their text, not their typeface, do the talking: in fact, Input looks particularly good as a typeface for would-be screenwriters (who also rely heavily on formatting).

Philosophically, Input is hoping a technically superior alternative can shake up typography in the coding world. "By mixing typographic variation with the power of syntax highlighting, by composing text that transcends a fixed-width grid, and by choosing and combining multiple font styles, we can end all up with code and data that is ultimately easier to read and write," the Font Bureau says. If you've ever pretended to be a cowboy console in Sublime Text, and if you care about good typography, Input can be downloaded for free over at the official site.

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5 Comments

  • Daniel Sobral

    I'd have liked to see a direct comparison to traditional coder fonts such as Consolas, Inconsolata, Deja Vu and Droid Sans Mono.

  • Henry Kale

    The video commerce platform that modualtes.com has developed is way beyond anything that other companies have.

  • He writes "What if coding applications managed semantic vertical alignment automatically?" (he wants IDEs and text editors to manage column align when using proportionally-spaced fonts.

    The answer is because lots of programmers still use text editors to code and occasionally still need to look at code in simple text editors. In order for what he proposes to work, you would need to go back and reinvent the text editor OR you would need a specialized text editor to properly view/edit source code. Either solution is problematic because part of the point of working with source code is that if necessary you can work with the most basic tools.

    I wonder if this is a case of a solution looking for a problem.

    The font does seem really readable though.

  • fastcompany

    Nice article, goes into the detail of why it is important to have a good coding font. But I wanted a comparaison with other recent coding font (ex: Source Code Pro — Adobe).

  • fastcompany

    Nice article, goes into the detail of why it is important to have a good coding font. But I wanted a comparaison with other recent coding font (ex: Source Code Pro — Adobe).