Recently, Twitter began to roll out a new custom typeface. If you haven’t noticed it yet, you’re probably not glued to the app 24/7, trying to craft a joke about the latest Bean Dad-adjacent micro-scandal. If you have in fact noticed that the type on the app has changed, you’re spot on: your account was selected to be a part of some beta testing for the new font (You should also probably get some blue light glasses for all that time you’re spending online.) The social network is currently rolling out “Chirp,” a fun, friendly font that combines American Gothic and European Grotesque styles. Per Twitter, it’s supposed to look like it was hand-cut from a wood block—a bit of hand-fashioned earnestness for one of our most prominent tech platforms. The new font is subtle—within a day of the change, it will probably feel like Twitter’s typeface has always been Chirp.
But this marks the first time Twitter has unveiled a custom typeface, and it’s a little more meaningful than it might seem. In the past, the app has relied on fonts like Helvetica Neue or Roboto.These typefaces reflected a trend popular across big tech: for decades, tech companies relied used typefaces that were streamlined, anonymous, and minimalist, the better to signal their futuristic efficiency. Slowly, though, things are beginning to shift. As people have grown more and more cynical about the reach and power of tech companies, companies like Duolingo and AirBnb have begun to try harder and harder to seem like they are your friends.
Spend any time on the New York City subway system, and alongside telephone numbers for Coney Island-based psychics and personal injury lawyers, you’ll see ads for Glossier, bespoke Viagra subscriptions that feature cacti in their marketing, and dating apps ads designed by Italian artworld lotharios Maurizo Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari (Hi, OkCupid!). The typefaces on all of these advertisements are meant to seem approachable, easy on the eyes. Even if you have no intention in ever purchasing Brooklinen sheets, you’ve probably seen the soft, swooping lower case ‘B,” out and about, and maybe Googled them, just to see if maybe they actually are all that great. These styles of type feel akin to the labels on cans of craft beer, gig posters, and the covers of hip essay collections. With its new custom typeface, Twitter is joining these ranks: Chirp fits right in. It will be interesting to see the effect that the Chirp has on users over the next few months. Will people really bare it all in a whole new way?
Or maybe the new font is meant to better match the way people already use Twitter. Back in January, Derrit DeRouen, the Creative Director of Global Brand at Twitter, gave a hint about what the company was up to. “Our key objective,” DeRouen tweeted back in January about the new typeface, “is to improve how we convey emotion and imperfection.” We all know that Twitter is a place where users like to get extra messy. With its new font, Twitter seems to know that now, too.