Airbnb Debuts Versatile ‘Cereal’ Typeface To Take You From Button To Billboard

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More brands are jumping on the bespoke typeface bandwagon to tackle legibility across platforms. Last year, YouTube launched its tailored ‘YouTube Sans’, followed by Coca-Cola’s custom ‘TCCC Unity’ in early 2018.

Now, Airbnb has partnered with global type foundry Dalton Maag to introduce ‘Cereal’—its custom-designed typeface established in six weights, aimed to enhance accessibility and readability across its print and digital platforms.

The sans-serif, which comes in light, book, medium, bold, extra bold, and black, offers a taller x-height than Airbnb’s former core typeface, as well as wider apertures.

Karri Saarinen—design lead, design language systems—explains on Airbnb Design, “With Cereal, we considered a range of factors to determine if it met our legibility standards. We opened up apertures to create distinct letter forms in what would have been similar looking letters. We also increased the x-height which makes the lowercase characters easier to read.”

“Type can get pretty small in UI design, and if the weight is too light the type can almost completely disappear.”

“So we paid special attention to the balance of the Book weight as to not be too light or too heavy. Lastly we toned down some of the characters so that they wouldn’t distract, but rather would be simple enough to allow people to complete tasks in the UI.”

‘Cereal’ is named after Airbnb’s 2008 campaign that salvaged the company from closure. In desperation, founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia shipped Airbnb hosts free boxes of cereal—called ‘Obama O’s’ and ‘Cap’n McCain’s’, inspired by the upcoming US Presidential election—to serve to guests.

The success of the campaign taught Airbnb the core value of finding solutions through unconventional means. While other potential names were explored, Derek Chan—creative lead, marketing—reveals that ultimately, “the story and the name represent [Airbnb’s] values and sentimentality.”

Flexible ‘Cereal’ bestows the design team with greater room to play around and exert their creativity. For example, “[O]n a billboard that says ‘Live There’, we can use our heaviest weight at an enormous scale, and actually weave the type with playing in the streets of Havana,” says Chan. “But then with things like a data visualization report or our Policy, the typeface allows us to design for more nuanced hierarchies while utilizing lighter weights.”

Saarinen adds, “Many typefaces work well when you can control the setting, but with UI and digital products the environment is dynamic. You have to consider screen sizes, devices, and content format, and it’s hard to predict future needs.”

“We experimented through dozens of iterations, testing in existing and new UI mockups over several months. Not only does the typeface look great and feel like us, but it performs better than anything we’ve used before.”

‘Cereal’ will roll out across the brand’s apps, website, and print materials over the subsequent month.

You can learn more about this typeface in greater depth via Airbnb’s dedicated ‘Cereal’ webpage.

[via Design Week, video via Airbnb, images via Airbnb]


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