Marcus and Ivanka in the Canonical Design team sat me down for some words of wisdom a few months ago. “You think you need a logo, but what you really need is a new font. One that sets the standard for both professional design, and embracing the values of Ubuntu in the way it’s produced.”

And how right they were.

Figuring that we wanted to do this once, properly, we said we’d build a complete family: various weights, variable-width and mono, across some of the key language groups of our community. We knew we couldn’t do everything but we figured we could establish a rigorous core upon which everything could be done. We’d fully hint and kern the work too, so it’s good enough to be a default interface font for something we all use all day long. A huge project, one that will take some time to finish. But today we’re publishing the first source for Ubuntu, the font, a milestone worth celebrating.

Marcus introduced Bruno Maag of Dalton Maag, who expressed a willingness to engage around an open font, and we agreed to buy the rights to the work completely, so that it could be licensed freely.

Bruno pulled together a very energetic team of typographers: Lukaz, Amelie, Shiraaz, Malcolm and more, all folks who live and breathe type and typography and keen to explore this rather crazy idea of inviting crowds into the inner sanctum of type design.

We knew at the start we were bringing together two very different worlds. We wanted a process which would ensure participation without drowning out the clear leadership needed for a coherent result. Bruno steered Marcus, Ivanka, me and others through a core initial process where we defined the range and scope of what we wanted to take on, and the values we wanted reflected in the result. I learned that a font is grounded in real values, and fortunately we have a strong expression of the six attributes that we value in Ubuntu and Canonical: collaboration, freedom, precision, reliability, adroitness, accessibility. That small team was best positioned to distill those into the typeface, and shape the broad strokes of the work.

Ubuntu is a global phenomenon, and we knew at the start we didn’t have the breadth of eyeballs close at hand to keep the font on track as it expanded. So we planned a process of expanding consultation. First within Canonical, which has folks from nearly 30 countries, and then within the Ubuntu community. We published the font to Ubuntu Members, because we wanted folks who participate and contribute directly to Ubuntu to have the strongest say in the public process of designing the font. We heard from Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, Indian, Chinese and many other cultures. Not everyone has glyphs in this first round, but everyone has had a hand in bringing us to this milestone.

The design team needed help with this outreach program, and it turned out that a longstanding member of the community, Paul Sladen, has a personal interest in typography. We noticed a marked uptick in the pace of bug triage when Paul got involved, and it was going so well we asked him to tackle it semi-professionally. The result has been really fast feedback to people making comments. I’d like to thank Paul for bringing that crucial stewardship to bear on the community engagement process, we would not have made it to the deadline without him.

We also had the benefit of a tool produced by Richard Lee and others in the design team, which lets people identify specific issues in the font, particularly as rendered in various web browsers on various platforms. is very cool: it lets you pick the characters, weight and size, takes a screenshot for you in most browsers, or helps you capture the essential details for the bug report. Fonts are software, but they are not software as we know it, Jim. So the tool helps us keep track of all the tricky details that might help debug a problem someone’s having.

A key open question, of course, was licensing. There are two obvious candidates, among quite a large field: the OFL, from SIL, and the GPLv3 with a font-specific clause added. Digging into this in more detail turned up a tricky situation: both approaches have issues which precluded us from adopting them immediately. We started speaking in some detail with Nicolas Spalinger of SIL, and Dave Crossland, who has done extensive analysis on the libre font process and dynamics. We offered to underwrite an SFLC review of the OFL, and SIL has expressed a willingness to participate in that, with a view to finding common ground that would bring Dave, ourselves, and many others under one common font licence, but we were running out of time. So we came to the compromise of an interim license, which you can find at bzr branch lp:ubuntu-font-licence While licence proliferation sucks, I’m optimistic we’ll converge in due course. James Vasile from the SFLC will help ensure the final result is wiser with the help of all the experience the SFLC gained in stewarding the GPLv3, and SIL and Dave will bring deep typographic industry insight.

Dalton Maag have started talking more widely about their experiences so far in the process. I was worried that they might be put off by the rowdy nature of open commentary, but I would credit them with a sterling constitution and thank them for the way they stepped up once the bug tracker really started to hum. There are few issues that are escalated which don’t get a rapid response and framing. Of course, there are differences of opinion, but in many cases genuine issues have been identified and handled. The team at DM have gotten into a great cadence of weekly iterations, and Paul has been ensuring that work makes it into the hands of Ubuntu users. As of today, *all* Maverick users have it installed by default (I believe this is true for Kubuntu as well, at least I answer questions in support of that goal).

What’s really interesting is that DM have said there is world-wide interest in the project. Many professional typographers are starting to think about open fonts. Now is the time to set a very high standard for what is achievable. There are hard questions to be answered about how the business of typography will evolve in the face of open and free type, but historically, those questions have best been answered by the bold: those who get involved, those who put themselves in the front line.

Going forward?

In due course, we’d like the Ubuntu font to reflect the full, extraordinary diversity of the Ubuntu community. We can’t do it all at once, and so we’re proposing a process for communities and cultures that feel part of the Ubuntu family to participate. If you want the Ubuntu font to speak your language, you need to do a few things to prepare for it. The hard, hard part is that you’ll need to find a qualified, local typographer who is interested in participating and in leading the design of your glyphs. You may need to find several, as we won’t necessarily embrace the first candidate. This is a serious matter: we welcome the crowdsourcing of bugs, glitches, rendering problems, hinting and kerning issues, but we want coherent, professional contributions on the core design. If that sounds exclusive: yes it is. Quality takes time, quality takes precedence. There are other fonts with lots of coverage, we have only one shot to get your glyphs done really beautifully then freeze them, metrically, for all time in the Ubuntu font.

The broader process looks like this.

First, you need to create a wiki page for your language / culture / glyphset (could be Klingon! Phoenician! Elvish ;-)) on There, you need to document the glyph set you think is required, and any historical quirks that are peculiar to doing it well, such as OpenType features or alternative approaches.

Second, you need to file a bug on called “Ubuntu Font should support [Klingon]”. If you want, you can invite members of your community to note that they are affected by the bug. We’ll be looking for ways to prioritise communities for attention.

Third, you need to contact local typographers, and tell them about Ubuntu, open content, open typography. If they are still listening, you have just opened the door on the future for them and given them a big head start :-). They will need to be willing to contribute to the font. They will know how much work that will be. They won’t be paid to do it, unless the local community can find a way to raise the funds, but since there is a genuine sense of excitement in the air about open typography and this project in particular, we think you’ll find bold and insightful typographers who are keen to be part of it. Add their details to the wiki page, especially details of their typographic portfolio. Update the bug with that information.

The tools used for open font design are in a state of flux. There are some exceptional technical pieces, and some dark swampy bits too. Dalton Maag will be leading sessions at UDS with folks from the open typography community, with a view to producing what Dave Crossland described as a “lovely long list” (I’m paraphrasing) of bugs and suggestions. Be there if you want to get a professional typographers insight on the toolchain today and what might be possible in the future. All of the Ubuntu font sources are published, though the license does not require source to be published.

Nevertheless, the process for designing your community glyphs will likely involve a mix of free and proprietary tools, at least for the next months. We’ll ask DM to review the portfolios of candidate typographers, and make recommendations for who should be given the go-ahead to lead the work, language by language. Once core glyphs are designed, we’ll facilitate LoCo-based community feedback, much as we did for the main font. We want local Ubuntu members to have the strongest public voice in feedback to their typographer. And Canonical, with DM, will provide feedback aimed at keeping the whole consistent.

Once the glyph design process is wrapped, the typographer will lead hinting and kerning. That’s the tough, detailed part of the job, but essential for an interface font that will be used on screen, everywhere on screen, all the time. And at that point we’ll start automating feedback, using fonttest, as well as starting to integrate those glyphs into the main Ubuntu font. We’ll publish point releases to the main Ubuntu font, with major releases designating points where we update the set of “fixed and metrically frozen” glyphs, point releases denoting occasions where we add or update beta glyphs in the public test font.

In each point release, we’ll include perhaps one or two new glyph sets for beta testing. We’ll prioritize those communities who have followed the process, and have the most substantial community interest in testing.

Phew. If you got this far, you’re interested :-). This is going to be one of those things that lives a very long time. It will take a long time to get everybody represented. But we’re going to do it, together.

92 Responses to “Something New and Beautiful: Ubuntu, distilled, in type”

  1. Ubuntu-Font unter Windows verwenden Says:

    […] Something New and Beautiful: Ubuntu, distilled, in type […]

  2. HapS Says:

    adamsın mark koççum benim

  3. BT Says:

    I’m with MK-82. I’m totally sold on this as an interface font, actually — I think it’s got a lovely, strong style — but for longer text it is kind of uncomfortable. If it’s going to be used for anything other than labeling widgets I’d say you guys need a separate text variant. There are certain places in Ubuntu, like the Software Center, where you’re going to want text that blends with the Ubuntu branding, and this just isn’t going to do it.

  4. Nelson Hereveri Says:

    I just put the new RC of Ubuntu 10.10, and several aspects of interface are welcome. Specially the font, is really nice and soft. The working experince on desktop is fluid and spacious. Thanks you very much.

  5. Nelson Hereveri Says:

    The font is not created for book publishing. Please be care y you use in a long paragraph, but this type of font is usefull in monitors, because are to dificult show a serif font.

  6. Ubuntu 10.10 is on the way | Geeky Thinking Says:

    […] font which will now be officially distributed as part of the release and might end up becoming the default font! […]

  7. Wydanie kandydujące Ubuntu 10.10 Says:

    […] Własnościowy font projektu Ubuntu, który dla poprawy wyglądu wprowadzono do wersji 10.04, jest teraz gotowym składnikiem dystrybucji. Shotwell pełni rolę menedżera zdjęć, zastępując program F-Spot. Wskaźnik dźwięku w panelu pozwala sterować odtwarzaczem muzyki. Ponadto odświeżono Centrum oprogramowania (Software Center) i poprawiono integrację z Ubuntu One. Program pocztowy Evolution uaktualniono do wersji 2.30, która cechuje się szybszym działaniem i zawiera specjalny interfejs dla mniejszych wyświetlaczy, np. w netbookach. […]

  8. David Says:

    I swear that t is playing tricks on me. Beautiful work.

  9. Our Favourite New Features In Ubuntu 10.10 | Lifehacker Australia Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font is also a whole typeset family, so it works across different widths, styles, and applications. You can read up on the font, its genesis, and its goals in a detailed post by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  10. Ubuntu 10.10, noch 5 Tage » Von Gregor Fröhlich » Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font Als Default Font wird nun der neue Ubuntu Font installiert […]

  11. BloGhigo » E’ uscito il font “made in Ubuntu” – Proviamolo subito! Says:

    […] non mancate di leggere il post di Shuttleworth in merito al Font Ubuntu sul suo blog! No related post […]

  12. Stitch Says:

    I like the new font. I use Ubuntu since Dapper and I think this is a great improvement.

    Bravo !

  13. Ubuntu 10.10 RC (« The Maverick Meerkat ») | xGeeks Says:

    […] Ubuntu font has been officially released and added to the install media. We are considering making it the […]

  14. Ubuntu 10.10 RC ( The Maverick Meerkat ) | xGeeks Says:

    […] Ubuntu font has been officially released and added to the install media. We are considering making it the […]

  15. Darence ANG » Blog Archive » Screenshot Tour: Our Favorite New Features in Ubuntu 10.10 Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font is also a whole typeset family, so it works across different widths, styles, and applications. You can read up on the font, its genesis, and its goals in a detailed post by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  16. hasan adil Says:

    Thanks for writing the post. It was an great learning experience from reading it.

  17. Ubuntu 10.10 « News from benaBLOG Says:

    […] forget the Ubuntu font, which has been officially released and added to the install media. The Ubuntu community is […]

  18. Bryce Says:

    The new font nukes a long-term gripe I’ve had with Ubuntu/Linux clean out of the water. It (the font) is:

    1.) professional, sophisticated
    2.) easy on the eyes
    3.) BEAUTIFUL!

    Excellent job, say I to your developers/designers!

  19. Evan Says:

    I’m all for a good free fonts — but against gratuitous wheel re-invention.

    Why not look at what Red Hat did for its Liberation font set (the Ubuntu package “ttf-liberation”) regarding licensing? Why not consider extending the Liberation Font family rather than starting a new one? This is not the time to play NIH.

    It’s just my opinion, but I think the Ubuntu font will work better for headings and menus than body type.

    As for the conversation with SIL, I really hope that bears fruit. Perhaps Ubuntu should consider officially recommending and supporting the glyphs from SIL’s excellent Gentium font family in those areas where no support (yet) exists in the Ubuntu font. Again, in the interest of reduced wheel re-invention, perhaps the Ubuntu font team could prioritize glyph sets that are missing from Gentium, so the two could be complementary rather than duplications of each other. The use of Ubuntu for headings and Gentium Basic for body type is a very impressive pairing.

  20. kauliukzmogis Says:

    Ok, I am using Windows, but I would like to try Ubuntu font. How can I get it?

  21. David Cuny Says:

    I’ve got mixed feelings on the typeface. I really like the idea of a clean, usable typeface that says “Ubuntu”, but there are a lot of things in this particular typeface that don’t appeal to me.

    I should note that there are a lot of good things about the typeface – it borrows a lot nice features other popular typefaces.

    In general: the font doesn’t seem to hang together as a unified whole. Instead, it looks like there have been a number of design decisions to make it unique, and these decisions are at odds with each other.

    One immediate design choice is the “missing” left crossbar on letter such as “r”, “i”, “n”, and so forth. It has the feel of the lower case letters in the “Star Trek” (the film) font – one that I’ve never been particularly fond of. It’s absence calls attention to itself – something you don’t want for a font that will be used throughout Ubuntu.

    Without left crossbar, the letters look too thin, especially when placed against letters with large bowls, which is another design decision of this typeface. The left side of these letters look like they’ve been sheared off.

    The crossbar is a simple solid stroke, which doesn’t feel balanced against letters such as “n” which narrow as the shoulder reaches the stem.

    The bowl on the “d” points up, making it look very much like a reversed musical flat (and bad, for that reason). In contrast, the “p” bowl points down. As a result, these letters look like they are sitting on different baselines.

    The “a” looks small and lost against the “e” and “p” with their large bowls.

    The “p” looks much too large, especially when placed against “r” and “t”, which are made more narrow than usual because of the absent left stroke.

    The weight on the “v” (in “have”) is too heavy, and the kerning is wrong.

    I really don’t like the crotch of the “w”. The weight of the letter feels wrong, and the left side is much smaller than the right.

    The shoulder of the “r” is too thin.

    It’s exciting that you’re adding a new typeface, but I hope there can be a good balance found between getting something that looks unique, and something that’s balanced and usable. As the font currently stands, I wouldn’t want to use it as my default font.

  22. coppermine Says:

    Nice looking font – with right color it immediately hinted me that this is ubuntu look. It is simple enough and easy to read. Great job, guys!

  23. Paul Sladen Says:

    MK-82: Thank you for trying out the font family. Useful, specific feedback is welcomed on the ubuntu-font-family bug tracker (vague generalisations are very to deal with, or respond to).

  24. Ubuntu 10.10 – noch ganze zwei Tage | Linux, Ubuntu, OpenSuSE, VDR und WoW Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font Als Default Font wird nun der neue Ubuntu Font installiert […]

  25. Jean Pierre Rupp Says:

    You’ve done an excellent job with the Ubuntu font. I’m using it by default. In fact, I configured my Ubuntu Firefox to use it exclusively. It’s sleek, minimalist, novel, and impressively readable.

    I’m usually very eager the days before a new release, and I’m always very pleased with every upgrade, like a child having a birthday party and presents, twice a year.

  26. Ullas Says:

    I have tried it its excellent for laptops with 14 inch screen and smaller because it has ample spacing between letters for better readability. Thanks for the great support.

  27. Le 10.10.10 à 10h10 Ubuntu est de sortie ! Says:

    […] du travail sur l’identité visuelle, amorcé depuis 2/3 versions déjà (avec notamment une nouvelle font), un processus d’installation encore simplifié, une logithèque remaniée … […]

  28. Paul Sladen Says:

    Just Curious: in the Ubuntu Font Family, the lower case ell (‘l’) does have a ‘little curve’ at the bottom, something is important to differiate from upper case eye (‘I’) as kamome notes a little further down.

    Fred: there is already have an issue open from another professional who noted the need to use optical character recongition in their work. Could you add your own experiences to bug #653672 please so that it’s possible to get more concerted feedback.

    Trent: please could you use the ubuntu-font-family/+filebug form on Launchpad to report the issue with the dot (tittle) on the lowercase ‘i’. It may be possible to deal with using hinting. Please include a screenshot, or use the online fonttest form directly so that it’s possible to know exactly at which sizes it is appearing to merge with the stem.

    Jonathan Marsden: the sample text on now includes samples for Cyrillic and Greek, hopefully more can be added as more languages/scripts are supported.

    Claudio: lots of people have already been using Ubuntu (the operating system) in production systems since 2004! And using (with their heritage in Debian) the pieces of the puzzle for twice as long! I hope that the Ubuntu Font Family will see use in lots of system beyond just people using Ubuntu-based machines.

    stefan: producing a font family (a whole typeface) takes a very, very long time and so it is not possible to do everything and for all languages at once. Ubuntu Mono is milestoned for beta testing during early 2011. Instructions for how to join in the phased beta test are available if you would like to help. I think many people who use the terminal alot are eagerly waiting for this part of the family to arrive! The Liberation fonts are excellent and thank yous be sent to Red Hat for supporting their development, hopefully bringing the Ubuntu Font Family to the scene will contribute to the number of libre/open fonts available.

    BT and Nelson: Ubuntu Light and Ubuntu Medium are milestoned and these should be more suitable for body-copy uses.

    Evan: the intent is to push-forward and expand the libre/open font community as a whole, rather than just something short-term. You can read the background to the interium licence on the Ubuntu Font Licence FAQ. If you think a particular area of the FAQ could do with expansion, please file a bug report at on the ubuntu-font-licence/+filebug page on Launchpad.

    David Cuny: there are a lot of good points here, and issues such as the lowercase ‘v’ can hopefully be improved with kerning. The bowls on the ‘bdpq’ are identical. It’s impossible to improve the Ubuntu Font Family if the issues aren’t known about and recorded in the bug tracker. Please file any you find (however) small in the bug-tracker directly or using fonttest (see links above).

  29. Fred Says:

    Paul: I actually opened bug #653672. ‘Left some feedback there this morning. Thanks.

  30. Maverick Meerkat: le novità « Freetime's Blog Says:

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  31. Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) ir klāt Says:

    […] Something New and Beautiful: Ubuntu, distilled, in type [] […]

  32. swinger Says:

    Paul: I actually opened bug #653672. ‘Left some feedback there this morning. Thanks.

  33. Ubuntu 10.10 „Maverick Meerkat“ ist erschienen Says:

    […] gibt es auf Ubuntu Font Family, auf Ubuntu-Font-Family, auf Pro-Linux und in Mark Shuttleworths Blog […]

  34. sorcerershell Says:

    Hey Mark! I love the brand new ubuntu font.. I’ve even use it for my paperwork..

    Could ubuntu include fonts in ? They publish open source font and the fonts they made are so beautiful..

  35. Byron Says:

    Just another thumbs-up for the new font. Been using 10.10 for a few days now and the font actually makes it pleasurable to use my PC. Amazing what a difference such a seemingly small change makes.

  36. arkadas Says:

    Paul: I actually opened bug #653672. ‘Left some feedback there this morning. Thanks.

  37. Ubuntu 10.10 Released! « AlphaFlockFunnyBiss Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font is also a whole typeset family, so it works across different widths, styles, and applications. You can read up on the font, its genesis, and its goals in adetailed post by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  38. Išleista „Ubuntu 10.10“ (Maverick Meerkat) | Says:

    […] Ubuntu šriftas buvo oficialiai išleistas ir įtrauktas į įdiegimo laikmeną. Planuojama padaryti šį šriftą pagrindiniu, todėl prašome jį išbandyti ir išsakyti savo nuomonę. […]

  39. Análise: Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat – onde se prova que o 13 continua a ser superstição Says:

    […] Esta expansão da fonte contará com a ajuda indispensável de membros da comunidade, conforme o repto de Mark Shuttleworth no seu blog, de modo a que a fonte expresse a identidade multi-cultural do Ubuntu e passe a suportar toda e […]

  40. Ubuntu 10.10 | benaCOM Says:

    […] forget the Ubuntu font, which has been officially released and added to the install media. The Ubuntu community is […]

  41. Our Favorite New Features in Ubuntu 10.10 Says:

    […] Ubuntu Font is also a whole typeset family, so it works across different widths, styles, and applications. You can read up on the font, its genesis, and its goals in adetailed post by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  42. Womens handbags Says:

    I think it would be a nice guest blog from the folks at Dalton Maag on how they dealt with the reception from people and how they adjusted their workflows to deal with delivering a font to an open source community. From my limited knowledge of font foundries they seem to be very closed by default, it seems like there was much confusion on why the font design and execution wasn’t open from the very beginning.