Back Story: Back in 1956, Beatrice Warde, American typographic expert and publicity manager for the Monotype Corporation, laid out her now-classic crystal goblet principle of effective typesetting. Just as a beautifully clear glass allows a drinker to fully appreciate the wine it contains, a typeface should only ever “reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain,”—i.e., the content. This line of thought can be limiting if followed scrupulously (what about the contributions of illustrative, decorative, variable, generative typefaces to good design?), but in some cases, such as typefaces meant for user interfaces, invisibility can be a definite asset.
Paris-based Black [Foundry] created Finder as a complete modern multi-script system for user interfaces. The designers were inspired by early examples of UI typefaces such as Apple’s San Francisco, a typeface that provides access to content and meaning without distracting the reader with a personality of its own. “We wanted to achieve a contemporary 21st-century neutrality,” Hornus says. The team also considered granular factors such as ISO-standard font compliance for reading in a car in motion (those of us prone to motion sickness salute this thoughtful detail). Finder covers nine writing systems—Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese—developed simultaneously using a collaborative workflow, resulting in harmonious characters across all the alphabets. Its minimal design allowed the designers the flexibility to stay true to the characteristics of each individual language while maintaining visual consistency within the typeface family. In a globalized world, a typeface that speaks to everyone equally becomes a necessity.
Why’s it called Finder? We’re aware it’s bad form to answer a question with another question, but…What is more basic to the Graphical User Interface than the Finder? Naming problem, solved.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Another question: Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? The font’s iterations in all languages are clean and consistent. Finder is meant to be read at small sizes; its open design, large counters, and generous letterspacing guarantee legibility. A reader doesn’t pause to notice the characteristics of the letterforms but simply processes the information they communicate, allowing Finder to maintain invisibility at all sizes and in all languages.
Stroke weights are balanced nicely across all the calligraphic and mechanical-based letterforms in the type family, a neat trick. Though the character shapes reference Humanist type styles, its glyphs are more inspired by English and American grotesques.
Part of what makes Finder unique, apart from its coherence and legibility in so many different language systems, is that Black [Foundry]’s collaborative development process resulted in an overall font file size that’s particularly light (under 5Mb) compared to traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) typefaces, making Finder easier to embed into devices. It also features a variable font option with a range of adjustable weights that makes it a great choice for responsive design where type weight needs to change if the device screen preference is set to dark mode, or in situations when the ambient light varies.
What should I use it for? Finder is an ideal type choice for international companies whose software or hardware targets markets worldwide. “We imagine it being used in devices that have to speak many languages,” says Hornus.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Since Finder epitomizes the crystal goblet ideal for invisibility, it pairs well with nearly any display font. The possibilities are staggering—basically, you can’t go wrong.