Helvetica’s skinny new look in iOS 7 Mail

Does the text in your email campaigns look like it has lost a little weight when viewed on your iPhone or iPad? It may be because how Helvetica and Helvetica Neue font families are treated in Apple iOS 7 Mail. Yes, skinnier fonts are in this season - and unless you add a little CSS to your HTML email code, you might notice the difference.

Simply put, if you use either Helvetica and Helvetica Neue in an email campaign (and we know that a lot of you do), then you may notice that these fonts appear thinner in Mail, when compared to other email clients. While this inconsistency isn't likely to cripple your campaigns, it was enough for one of our customers to notice - and for us to investigate further.

As it turns out, if you don't explicitly define a font-weight in your CSS styles, then iOS 7 Mail defaults to using Helvetica Neue Light - which is significantly less weighty than either normal/regular Helvetica or Helvetica Neue. Pictured is a comparison.

Helvetica in iOS 7

Should this bother you, normalizing font-weights across all email clients is easy enough - all you have to do is add font-weight: normal to your HTML email's CSS stylesheet. For example...

p { font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-weight: normal; }

... et voila! Truly 'normal' font-weights. This issue seems to affect the Helvetica and Helvetica Neue font-families exclusively - other fonts don't seem to be on iOS 7's weight loss plan. This isn't entirely surprising, given that Helvetica Neue is iOS 7's default system font and likely has been given a slightly different treatment to match the overall interface.

Thanks to cool customer Tony, as well as support stalwarts Stig and JD for highlighting this issue. If you too spot an inconsistency like this one between email clients, be sure to let us know - we're always keen to get testing.

Posted by Ros Hodgekiss


  • Jean-Michel
    5th December

    Note that Helvetica Neue Italic is absent from iOS 7.0.3 and gets replaced with Helvetica Neue Medium Italic. http://cl.ly/image/461z060W3v2c

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    5th December

    Thank you for the heads up, Jean-Michael - keen to see what other font substitutions could be taking place here :D

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