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New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron

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Reviewed May. 18, 2017 by Armin

Industry / Entertainment Tags /

The last we talked about YouTube was in 2013 when they introduced a refined play button to complement the full logo. It was hard to imagine then that YouTube would become even bigger or more pervasive but it definitely has and its big, chunky, red play button is as ubiquitous and recognizable as the Nike swoosh. Now, with the launch of YouTube TV — that will allow paying users to stream live TV from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and other popular cable networks — YouTube is about to get just a tad more ingrained in users’ lives. To coincide with the launch of the new service, YouTube has introduced a refined play button and new brand typeface designed by Saffron in collaboration with YouTube’s UX team, Letterjuice, and URW++.

One of the first tasks was to redraw the ‘Play Button’ to make sure its curves and angles were perfect.

Saffron project page

New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Play button, before and after.
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Comparison of before and after. (Blue used only for contrasting purposes.)
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Relationship between play button and type.
Play button refinement and underlying grid.

We’ll start with the play button refinement. The one word review is: okay. As in, yeah, sure, it’s an improvement but let’s not get too carried away with those grids. But, hey, the quest for perfection and graphic harmony is a worthy one, so big ups to Saffron!

The typeface developed in collaboration with YouTube’s UX team, is designed to be used in both product and marketing communications to express a uniquely YouTube aesthetic. Together, we’ve developed a font that combines the vibrant, user-friendly world of YouTube with the bold, freewheeling world of cinema and entertainment. YouTube Sans is the only visual asset that links every touch point of YouTube TV. It will bring brand recognition to a wide variety of digital and non-digital environments. It is slightly quirky and expressive, but also simple and bold, just like the platform it calls home.

Saffron project page

New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Type family weights.
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Character set.
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
Design details.

The new type family — which I understand will be limited to YouTube TV and not spread entirely to the full YouTube brand (although in time it probably will) — feels as if Interstate had a one nigh-stand with Comic Sans and the baby inherited 99% of Interstate’s genes but has that 1% of weirdness that makes it stand out in a… peculiar way. I wouldn’t buy this type family to use in a project but it certainly works as a brand typeface — especially for a brand like YouTube — to establish a unique visual tone of voice which in this case would be serious yet irreverent.

Scaling.
Play button ease of use.
Now, YouTube has a typographic system that can carry YouTube’s message all over the world across all kinds of media. This is a font that can communicate its brand with only a glance. And a font family that will continue to grow with the speed and excitement of YouTube, itself.

Saffron project page

New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
YouTube TV application.
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
YouTube TV app.
New Type Family and Refined Play Icon for YouTube by Saffron
YouTube TV’s launch event in Los Angeles.

In application there is an odd lack of refinement to it somehow. Like, it’s typeset too big and clunky for its own good. Maybe it’s because these are prototypes and not the real thing. Or maybe they are the real thing. It feels like it needs a little more breathing room all around to let its peculiarities sink in. Interestingly it works a lot better when used in white over video, instead of black on white. Overall, though, this fits the YouTube brand and will help in establishing its growing ecosystem of cat videos and live TV.

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