RE: SUMMARY: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif

Subject: RE: SUMMARY: Readability studies on fonts--serif and sans serif
From: "Dick Margulis" <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 10:35:32 -0500


Christensen, Kent wrote:

BTW, the New York
>Times on the web uses <FONT FACE=times>. What do we suppose this means?
>


It means that the person who designed the NY Times site knows that nearly all browsers can find a font named "times" on virtually any computer.

The family _Times Roman_ (including roman, italic, bold, and bold italic faces) was designed in 1931 by Stanley Morison for The Times, which is the newspaper of record in London, not New York, and is an unrelated publication. Current digital knockoffs are, for the most part, a pale homage to a design that was specifically intended to fill a specific set of needs in a specific production environment (hold on, there's a TW-related lesson here. The Times wanted to improve readability without changing their page layout or their production equipment. Type had to be cast on a Monotype machine, then stereotyped, then printed on newsprint on a high-speed web press. Morison met these challenges by increasing x-height relative to the type body (point size), thereby gaining legibility without significantly changing the number of words on a page. He designed a slightly condensed face to accommodate the narrow text columns and minimize awkward word spacing and letterspacing. He designed robust serifs and moderate thins to minimize breakage in the casting, stereotyping, and printing.

He also minimized idiosyncratic letterforms to avoid distracting the reader from the content. He did this by sending out smoke proofs of his draft designs to a panel of type designers, typographers, and editors. Whenever he received a comment like, "Stanley, I really like the bowl on that italic lowercase g," he immediately set about redesigning the character in question until the panel ceased to notice any particular character or feature.

There are lessons here for us all, n'est-ce pas?

Uncle Dick




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