In 2010, Airbus initiated a research collaboration on a prospective study to define and validate an "Aeronautical Font": the challenge was to improve the display of information on the cockpit screens, in particular in terms of legibility and comfort of reading, and to optimize the overall homogeneity of the cockpit.
As part of this cooperation, the Airbus team for the HMI asked Jean‑Luc Vinot (PII R & D team of DSNA / DTI) and Sylvie Athènes of PRISSMH Laboratory (University of Toulouse III) for a research and expertise work (Conception, évaluation et validation de fontes numériques pour l’affichage d’informations critiques sur écrans dans le domaine aéronautique).
The results of this initial research validated the concepts, and Airbus then entrusted Intactile DESIGN with the industrialization of this prototype. The designers worked on the design of each character (587 glyphs per font for the V1), for each of the eight typographic variants of the font. This one, baptized B612 in reference to the imaginary asteroid of the aviator Saint‑Exupéry, benefited from a complete hinting on all the characters. The hinting instructions, integrated with the characters, favor the display for low and medium resolutions, taking into account optical corrections and ensuring correct alignments with the pixels of the screens.
For Airbus, the objective of the project was to have an aeronautical font, designed specifically to ensure optimal display of textual information, even in a degraded context, on all screens of future Airbus programs. B612, mainly for digital use, is already used for the design of pilot-system interfaces and devices for future aircraft.
Coming from a research program that was fairly conventionally based on experimentation, the process quickly became iterative. The research methods were put at the service of the creation and the design team in a shared conception: project B612 is a success because it has created a strong symbiosis between research, design and industry.
Finally, one of the interesting features of the project is the fact that Airbus has agreed that this research cooperation will lead to an open-source publication of the fonts. This publication has been finalized within the framework of the Polarsys project in June 2017.
All resources are available here: B612 - The PolarSys Font.