Font size on graphs?

Subject: Font size on graphs?
From: Geoff hart <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "techwr-l (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 08:46:17 -0500

Gayle Hoffman wondered whether <<...there are any rules of thumb or
guidelines for the choice of font for [graphs, charts and drawings]>>

The same rules of thumb apply as for any other font choice: the typeface
must be large enough and sufficiently distinct from its background for it to
be legible. Ideally, type choice should be consistent between "like" objects
in a document (i.e., all graphs should use the same typographic conventions,
all headings of the same level should use the same conventions but
conventions different from those for graphics, and so on). Beyond this,
you're going to have to experiment to find combinations that are usable by
your audience. I consider 10-point Times Roman (picked as an example solely
because everyone has access to Times) to be the minimum size standard for
comfortable reading, and picking any other type requires you to pick sizes
that are roughly comparable to this in subjective visual size. (Fonts with
the same nominal point size often differ greatly in perceived size;
Garamond, for example, seems to be roughly 20% smaller than the same point
size of Times.)

<<Also should there be a difference in font and font size between hard
copies of the documentation and the online version? We plan to use PDF files
for the online version.>>

It all depends on what your goal is for putting the graphics online. If the
sole purpose is for the reader to be able to print a copy that works well in
print, then you can optimize the font for viewing on paper; the very few
people who choose not to print it can always zoom in until the fonts become
large enough to read. At the other extreme, if you expect that any large
proportion of your audience will want to (or have to) use the font online,
then you must optimize it for online viewing: that is, the graphics should
fit comfortably within the typical window or screen viewers will use to
display it, and the font must be legible and distinct from its background at
that magnification. Which combination of these two extremes characterizes
your audience? Typically, you'll be more towards the "use it online"
extreme, in which case you'll typically need to pick a larger point size and
a font optimized for online viewing (either sans serif or an optimized
serif).

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens




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