Re: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif

Subject: Re: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 17:34:38 -0800

Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net> wrote:

>On a low-resolution device like a monitor, serifs tend to break
up at small
>text sizes, resulting in poor legibility;

True. However, I would add that slab serifs are usually an

>So, if anything, Williams's rule is either upside-down,
misquoted, or taken out of context.

I think it's only intended as a general guide. On this level, it
works reasonably well, especially for anyone who doesn't know
much about typography. However, as you point out, the choice
partly depends on usage.

It also depends very much on the typeface. For example, I would
be very reluctant to use a compressed font on-line at a small
size, because it would be hard to read. Equally, I probably
wouldn't a geometric font like Avant Garde for a body text,
because the regularity of the letters would be irritating to the

Another consideration is how the digital version of the font was
designed. The better designed a font is, the more sizes it is
adjusted for. With some fonts, making it larger or smaller than
the default size disrupts the design: the thickness of a stroke
or the curve of a bowl that looks good at 12 points doesn't work
at 6 or 36 points.

Bruce Byfield, Publications and Product Strategy, Stormix
Vancouver, BC, Canada
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com or bbyfield -at- stormix -dot- com

"Call me the Deserter: it's true I walked away,
Travelling by starlight, hiding out by day,
Dogs and demarcations kept me on the run,
I got a little blinded, staring at the sun."
- OysterBand, "The Deserter"

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