back to article Nokia talks Pure typographic cobblers

As we announced last week, Nokia has unleashed its new "Nokia Pure" font on an unsuspecting world, but we seriously underestimated just how much whalesong and joss-sticks went into the creation of its "humanist sans face". The Nokia Pure typeface Typographic geezer Bruno Maag, having already admitted that Nokia Pure has " …


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  1. Monkey Bob

    Poor cat...

    What do you do when you see Comic Sans?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Poor cat...

      I'd invite you to ask my last cat, but sadly...

      1. Ian Michael Gumby


        "If your nerves can stand it, there's more of this cobblers here. In fairness, Nokia is right about one thing: it says that "the effect of a typeface on a reader happens at a visceral level", which explains why I instinctively kicked the cat when Nokia Pure flashed before my eyes."

        Lester, is that an euphemism like 'choking the chicken' or should we sic PETA on you?

        1. Luther Blissett

          Cultural determinants of metaphor

          I think Lester means that Nokia have really screwed the pooch with this one.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      I do an Alan Patridge

      "Oh cook a cat!"

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Bruno Maag? The same chap that did the Ubuntu font?

    Look to me that there's more work gone into the flowery rhetoric than into a minor redesign of Helvetica. Why doesn't he put some effort into getting Ubuntu Monospace up and running, eh?

    1. Kristian Walsh
      Thumb Up


      Only like Helvetica in that both are sans-serif faces. A,a,b,C,c,e,f,G,g,i,J,j,K,k,M,Q,R,r,s,t,y are obviously different. At larger sizes, the resemblance shinks away to nothing.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    deary me

    what a load of excitement over a fairly boring looking font. Maybe it will look better or be easy to read on a small screen. If so, very nice.

    what I really do not get is why this is supposed to be about fluid seamless motion given that the font is very angular. what was the guy smoking?

  4. Solomon Grundy

    This font brought to you by the letter e

    The part of the e that doesn't render correctly. That part had to be cut off so the rest of the helvetica family wouldn't complain too much.

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      The Missing Foreskin...

      ...of the e can be found grafted to the top of the l.

  5. Z 1
    Thumb Down

    Pass the spliff

    That font is, like, heavy man.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So where can I download this font for my PC? Or is that where Nokia's whale music stops?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a nice enough humanist sans serif

    but humanist sans serifs are inherently boring, readability being their main aim. Not that I'm suggesting for a moment that we need to spatter peculiar letterforms all over the place, but a little distinctiveness wouldn't go amiss. It was a sad day when the angled ascender of Audi's d was unceremoniously dumped.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      "a nice enough humanist sans serif"

      I don't know that I'd even go so far as to call it "nice enough". The aspect ratio's odd - the glyphs are a bit too tall or too narrow - for my taste; that's probably to jam more text onto a small phone screen, but I still don't like it. And the proportions of some of the letters bug me, too.

      Agree that "humanist sans serifs are inherently boring", too. And odd-looking, when used for running text. There's a reason why the original term for sans-serif typeface was "grotesque".

      (In case anyone's wondering and can't be bothered to look it up, there are two kinds of grotesque fonts: geometrical ones that use straight lines and simple curves, so for example "o" will typically be a true circle; and "humanist" ones, which don't do that, because it looks god-awful. That helps, but not much.)

  8. Oliver Mayes

    "humanist sans face"?

    A humanities scholar without a face? Perhaps a victim of the infamous Helvetica Scenario?

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    "After all, when it's set in Arabic...."

    Funny, I can't see any Arabic characters there, what do those look like in Nokia Pure?

    Or is he confusing Arabic numerals with the full Arabic character set?

    It's times like this that I wish I knew the Arabic for: "What a load of cobblers.". Could some commentard oblige with the necessary please?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Ooh, look I can try to be witty at someone's expense."

      Linked from the previous related article:

    2. amanfromearth

      According to google, it's

      ما هي حمولة من الاسكافيون

      or maybe not :(

  10. Mike Richards Silver badge

    I hope it's just a glitch in the screengrab

    but it looks like the baseline of the 's' in 'Whalesong' is a little too high.

    As for Nokia's font, I prefer Microsoft's Segoe UI family as used on Windows Phone 7 - it's incredibly elegant, modern and easy to read.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      's' Baseline

      The entire baseline of "Whalesong" is all over the place: 'h' is above 'W', 'a' is below both, 'l' is back up where 'h' is, then it drops again to 'e', and then there is the horror that is the levitating 's'.

      I'd go on, but it's making me sea-sick.

      For Nokia's sake, I do hope it's an issue with the screen grab or the text rendering software. Mind you, it is still better than the farce of a font that they currently use on their phones.

      And yes, I would agree that the font in WP7 is brilliant.

      1. Jolyon

        Snog Lew? Ha.

        I assume (and hope) the whalesong is a Reg-specific addition hastily and clumsily stitched together.

      2. BorkedAgain

        Tongue in cheek?

        Uh, I rather suspect the "Whalesong" may have been pasted together by Lester from the letter samples above. As a kind of joke, you see?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Base - How low can you go!

        I wonder how much Nokia spent commissioning a typeface that looks very slightly different from Franklin Gothic and a dozen other typefaces?

  11. Archie The Albatross

    When I were a lad.........

    studying graphic design (they still called it Commercial Art in those days but we'd only just stopped carving into rock), only the Fine Arts kids did the "talking total bollocks" module.

    DTP has much to answer for, curse you Fontographer!

    1. Bobster


      Same here... they never stopped talking bollocks until enough cow gum was thrown at them... now, where did I put my Grant Enlarger and Letraset catalogue?

      Oh and yes - Nokia Pure, total bollocks too...

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a huge investment in time, skill and money"

    Translation : lots of power meetings with heavy deciders, expensive restaurant and hotel bills, some international flights, plus maybe a thousand or two for the poor sap who had to write and re-re-rewrite the font rules actually doing the job.

    Plus the inevitable high-level marketing party thrown once the one technical guy had finally finished the endless list of useless modification to make it look like Plus Sans.

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Yeah, and that new payroll system, that's just a re-compile, right?'s funny how dismissive some people are of type design, like this was something that a junior could have knocked out in between watching YouTube and having his afternoon wank. It's far from it. Once upon a time, I worked in the fonts group of a well-known OS maker, and the complexity and sheer number of rules in a modern font is breathtaking.

      Type design is the closest thing to coding you can get in the design field, and producing a general-purpose modern typeface is the hardest task in type design - quirky is easy, but quirky gets really old after a few million words.

      These days, a font is a program: one that needs to produce correct results at sizes from 6 pt to 1 m high, at resolutions from 80 to 2400 dpi. Then you need to do that for over a two thousand different lettershapes (600-800 for the European alphabetic scripts, then the rest for Arabic, Thai, Devanagari, which have even more combinations and permutations of letters) and contextual forms. Multiply by three weights and you're looking at a sizeable amount of work just to draw the damn things.

      When you've done that, you have to make sure that all of these glyphs kern properly, and kern properly at each size (kerning distances depend on the absolute size of the type; larger letters sit closer together than small). The QA effort on a typeface is enormous.

      After all that, it's also got to look good, and be as suitable for use on billboards as a mobile screen. Usually, that also means making optimised font outlines with fewer control points that will render quickly on mobiles without looking like shite - more work.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Font design may indeed be complicated work,

        and I'd probably be shit at it, but general consensus is that Nokia has bigger problems to worry about beyond what their in-house font should be.

        If Nokia were the Titanic, then this font would be a deckchair.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Not a deckchair: this face is part of their much-needed UI revamp

          Right now, and until their Windows Phone handsets arrive, Nokia's biggest challenge is to convince their current customers that Symbian isn't just the same old Series60, and that it's comparable to the other offerings from Google or Apple.

          Technologically, they're on strong ground with this claim, but in terms of user experience, right now, they're well behind. Revising the look and feel of their products is the major step that's needed; and a new default typeface is a big part of this effort.

          Despite looking great on non-smoothed small bitmap displays, Series60 Sans doesn't look good at larger sizes or higher resolutions, and it doesn't help that it had a hacky hinting scheme to give you two faces for the price of one (below 8pt, it's like a different font entirely).

          A replacement was needed, but licensing a pre-existing font for 300 million devices a year gets very expensive, even at a fraction of a cent per unit royalty, when for the same cost you could commission a unique design as a once-off cost.

          1. Ilgaz

            their symbian switchers?

            On Symbian, you can change UI font and on Windows Phone, you can't even choose a different colour scheme.

            Their imaginary symbian switchers will sure understand it isn't symbian once they press home button long time to multi task.

        2. AdamWill

          Well, not exactly

          Nokia's trying to reinvent itself, and that's hard to do if you're using a font which is one of the most instantly recognizable around, and which is hardwired to the word 'Nokia' in your brain. No, really - the instant you see Nokia Sans you _know_ it's Nokia Sans, and you think about Nokia, and you probably think about Series 60, and you probably think about how crappy Series 60 is these days. Nokia's problem is a bit of an odd one - their existing font design is just too memorable and well-known - but it is still a problem, when that font is tied so innately into the image of a company and an OS that has significant image problems.

          Changing the font is both a smart move and an important one, if you stop and think about it for a bit.

  13. Mage Silver badge


    The g doesn't look right.

    Gill Sans will do me.

    1. Graham Marsden

      "Gill Sans will do me."

      But whales are mammals and don't have gills...

      1. mhoulden

        Re: "Gill Sans will do me."

        So they would be sans gills then?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And now my TV pilot has a name

      Gill Sans - Male Gigolo

  14. heyrick Silver badge


    Call me clueless, but how is this not a slightly heavy Arial/Helvetica, or a light Verdana?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The stroke lengths, weights and curves will be different

      Ever see the old Apple Garamond? It looked suspiciously like a narrower boggo Garamond, but the differences went a lot deeper.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      Well, it's just different enough to not breach copyright rules...

  15. John 62


    It's nothing like Helvetica. The terminals are completely different, more like Arial, though still more open. It is, however, much less obnoxious than Nokia's previous font, which had only one good point: it was legible when squeezed. I think the new lowercase forms of Pure are slightly too rounded. I looked up a few screenshots of Pure in use and it looks good at very low density. It shows some pretty crazy kerning on the ce combo that wouldn't be available for oe. And it reminds be a bit of the new Ubuntu font when used as a UI across the whole screen.

  16. Colin 4
    Thumb Up


    "instinctively kicked the cat" ... brilliant, nearly lost my fish finger sandwich there ...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So you get your shiny new gadget

    And you take a few moments to revel in the beauty of the wording on the box (thanks to the new font). You unpack and pause again to let your eyes bathe in the beauty of the Getting Started manual. You power up, oh the splash screen is so Pure and then ...

    it boots WinPho7


  18. Anonymous Coward



  19. Oninoshiko


    the font looks fairly readable, and therefore non-objectionable in my book, I must agree with the comment that the money would have been better spent on making a higher-quality phone.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is...

    ... a perfectly good typeface which Nokia already own, and which isn't being used for anything right now. It's the Symbian Foundation typeface. Why don't they use that?

    It is such a piece of kiddy garbage that it ensured nobody ever took seriously during its short and sad life. In turn, it would provide Nokia with an inbuilt excuse for its own inevitable rapid collapse.

  21. Stratman


    This font must look very familiar to anyone who travels on the London Underground.

  22. armyknife


    on Titanic the deckchairs.

  23. Alonella
    Thumb Down

    doesn't anyone think anymore?

    great - I have an astigmatism - yet another font i can't read without my specs - they're right all the letters DO flow into one another!

  24. >Geoff

    Bit unfair... butcher their work with your misaligned Whalesong cut'n'paste job, however much fun it is to poke fun at them there highfalutin design types.

  25. Jah

    Win Phone Font!

    Reminds me of the font used on Win Phone - "you will be assimilated". Nokia will become Microsoft before we know it!

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Deja vu

    They must be bored.

    Reminds me of when Symbian marketing went into overdrive and came out with a new brand avec roboducks...and look what happened there.

  27. gurmit

    No need to tell anyone

    While its competitors are producing the likes of ipad2, and other fancy features, this is such a minor thing that its not worth posting about. Nokia should have kept this behind closed doors and just released the font in some new version of software. Maybe some Nokia users would have noticed it , but most of would not. Really the font is something that anyone hardly cares about on a phone.

    Another Nokia Quango. Please just concentrate and making phones that people would like to buy.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ill conceived?

    So, do big eye and little ell look the same in that font?

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