Having spent time recently focusing on dispersed levels of data, I was drawn to Clear Sans for its practical nature. The different weights between light, thin, regular, medium, bold, and even italic offer great options for both readability and contrast, making all sorts of type and numbers easy for users to digest. More and more I noticed that I didn’t have to squint the way I usually do with fonts that I tend to see used a lot for dashboards, analytics, and other user interfaces. One trick seems to be to use type in “playful” ways, set large; Clear Sans feels grown up and swings to the other side of the spectrum.
Experimenting, I noticed an efficient use of space both vertically and horizontally. In terms of line height, the short descender space of the ‘g’ and ‘p’ work to keep things compressed while not feeling crushed, thanks in part to the large bowls that keep the characters open. Letters like ‘m’ and ‘w’ adapt well to ‘a’, ‘c’, and ‘e’ and help to keep words tight (in a good way). I also noticed that Clear Sans remained readable whether sitting on a flat background or on busy imagery. The sharp angles of ‘n’ and ‘u’ also made the face stand out for me.
The sensible nature of Clear Sans makes it easy to work with. Aside from the technical attributes, it doesn’t try to feel too “techie” with irrelevant flourishes. Each letter has a nice detail but doesn’t overpower the next letter. If I use words like “efficient” and “practical” a lot here, it’s because they give a good overview of what each character is like viewed up close.
Editor’s note: Since there is no design credit given on the Clear Sans website, I asked Monotype Type Director Dan Rhatigan for more info. He says they began with an unpublished design by Robin Nicholas which Rhatigan and George Ryan reworked for Intel. — SC
Michael Surtees is a product design director and practitioner of user experience design (UXD) based in NYC. Currently he is the Head of Design at Dataminr designing early warning and detection systems for clients in News, Finance and the Public Sector.