Yesterday, Apple released a new bundle of developer tools called WatchKit to help make third-party Apple Watch apps a reality. But for type lovers, WatchKit contained a nice little surprise: a folder containing 23 different variations of the Apple Watch system font, the first one Apple has designed in-house in almost 20 years. Even better, that typeface finally has a name: San Francisco.
Seemingly inspired by Helvetica and FF Din, San Francisco is designed specifically for smaller displays: there’s plenty of space between each letter, and Apple seems to be avoiding extraordinarily thin lettering that wouldn’t play well on already cramped watch screens. Yet as some have already noticed, San Francisco also looks gorgeous on Retina Displays as a replacement Mac default typeface.
You can download the necessary font files from the GitHub page, which are adapted versions of the files Apple made available, as they have to be changed slightly to work properly as a system font.
To install, the steps are quite simple.
Download the zipped font files.
Copy the 6 font files to /Library/Fonts on your Mac. (protip: press cmd+shift+g while in Finder to type the path directly.)
Run sudo chown root:wheel /Library/Fonts/System\ San\ Francisco* to set the proper ownership of the font files.
Repair Disk Permissions diskutil repairPermissions / (for good measure)Log out and log back in to apply the changes.
Step three and four requires use of the Terminal, so be careful when typing in the two commands. It just changes file permissions, so it’s difficult to go wrong. The Terminal will ask for an admin password, though, as changing permissions requires elevated privileges. Otherwise, it’s a simple case of moving files to a special directory. You can see what it looks like from the above screenshot.
If it turns out you want to go back to Helvetica, just delete the six files from the Fonts folder in Library and reboot. As an aside, it should also be possible to install San Francisco as the primary font on your iOS device, although it will require a jailbreak.