-Legibility and Readability
Legibility is concerned with how easy it is to distinguish individual letters. The simpler a type design is, the more legible it is. So why do less-than-legible typefaces even exist? Because typeface designers love to create unique and distinctive designs, of course. While it is generally better to always choose a legible type, there are times when distinctiveness may be more important than legibility. For example, when selecting a font for a unique and distinctive company logo.There are three design features that make a typeface legible:1. Large X-Height:A large x-height increases the negative space within each letter. This makes it’s shape much more discernable.2. Large Counters:The negative space within a letter is called a counter. When a typeface has large counters, it is easier to distinguish the shape of each individual letter.3. Simple Letterforms:The simpler a letterform, the more legible it is. Sans serif types are generally more legible than their serif counterparts because they do not have any serifs interfering with the shapes of the letters. However, this does not mean that sans serifs are necessarily easier to READ in text. Actually, serif types are generally considered MORE readable. The exception to this rule is on-screen. Because of on-screen distortion, sans serif is the best choice for readability.Some common typefaces which meet these three criteria are: Helvetica, Novarese, New Century Schoolbook, Cheltenham, Times Roman, Gill Sans, and Baskerville.Readability refers to the ease with which a reader can scan over paragraphs of type. In other words, how easy it is to read! While legibility is basically dependent on the typeface design, readability is dependent on the manipulation or handling of the type. A highly legible typeface can be made unreadable by poor typographic design. Factors which affect readability include: line lengths, point size, leading, typeface selection, spacing, type alignment, and background.Avoid CapitalsNinety-five percent of what we read is in lowercase letters. Not only are we much more used to reading them, but they also assist us because they create a recognizable shape (coastline). Words in capital letters have no distinctive shape (or coastline).Use a size suitable for your audience. Ideal text type size ranges from 9-12 point depending on the x-height. Remember older people may need a larger point size to read.Don't use a too long or too short line length.Very short or long lines disrupt the reader’s rhythm, making it harder to read. Very short lines run the risk of creating rivers if justified alignments used. If long lines are unavoidable, extra leading can help offset the problem. Very long lines disrupt reading. When the eyes get tired, they are no longer able to find the beginning of the next line of type. An ideal line length can be estimated by doubling the point size. For instance, 12 point type should have a line length of 24 picas (or four inches). Generally, shorter lines should be used for typefaces with small x-heights and thick/thin designs, and also bold and italic fonts. Usually a serif typeface can tolerate a longer line than a sans serif.Create equal word spacing.If word spaces are too large, they break the lines up into separate elements and disrupt reading. This is especially true if justified type is used on a short line length. If the word spaces are too small, it becomes difficult to distinguish each separate word. A good trick to use to check word spacing is to turn the page upside down and squint at it. Excessively large word spaces will stand out. Be especially careful with condensed and expanded fonts, reversed type, and vertical, narrow typefaces (like Bodoni).Create even letter spacing.When letters are correctly spaced, a paragraph of type takes on an even color. From a distance it should look like a screened gray block. The shade of gray will depend on the heaviness of the typeface. Any interference with normal letter spacing is very hard to read. If the letter spacing is uneven, darker spots stand out in places against the gray color. Often, tight tracking will create uneven letter spacing.Think about the background.An important factor in the readability of type is the background on which it is placed. This includes not only any printed blocks of color, screens or black backgrounds, but also the kind of paper the type appears on. When selecting a typeface, think carefully about what kind of background it will be placed on. For instance, a fine, light typeface will not stand out well on black or screened background, or on textured/glossy paper. To avoid readability problems, never place text type on black or screened backgrounds. It’s too hard to read!
height Attempts to standardize the measurement of type began in the eighteenth century. The point system is the standard used today. One point equals 1/72 inch or .35 millimeters. Twelve points equal one pica, the unit commonly used to measure column widths. Typography can also be measured in inches, millimeters, or pixels. Most software applications let the designer choose a preferred unit of measure; picas and points are standard defaults.Nerd Alert: Abbreviating Picas and Points8 picas = 8p8 points = p8, 8 pts8 picas, 4 points = 8p48-point Helvetica with 9 points of line spacing = 8/9 Helvetica
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Arguments in favor of sans serif typefaces· Sans serifs are better on the web· Sans serif is better at small sizes. Sans serif fonts survive reproduction and smearing because of their simple forms
· Sans serif is better for children learning to read
-Type TimelineOlivia's blog,
had a large amount to choose from but I cut id down to the basics