RE: Usability: Serif and Sans-Serif font faces?

Subject: RE: Usability: Serif and Sans-Serif font faces?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 09:03:56 -0700

Quoting Solena -dot- LEMOIGNE -at- fr -dot- thalesgroup -dot- com:

> Talking from the French side, I've read little material that was set in sans
> serif type. Any Nordic readers ready to share experience?

In the past, sans serif fonts were widely used in German-speaking countries.
The main reason is that the New Typography of the 1920s, in its rejection of
black letter, chose sans serifs as the simplest, most basic letters available,
and championed their use.

Whether that is still true is uncertain. With the strong American cultural
influence, I would expect it not to be, but I don't have any facts.

> I've noticed that when I get a manual set in a sans serif font, I read much
> slower, which could indicate that I'm less used to reading sans serif text.

I find this an interesting comment, because personally I notice little, if any
difference in reading spead when reading serif and sans serifs. If anything, I
may read sans serifs slightly faster. I suppose it goes to show that general
comments easily break down in particular cases.

Like Solena, I suspect that the difference may come down to familiarity. I find
it very hard to credit the idea posted earlier that those who come from a
cultural tradition of sans serifs have slower reading speeds. Not that slowing
readers down would necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, in technical
information, that might be a good idea. By slowing down, perhaps readers would
comprehend more. Still, if sans serifs were a serious handicap, I have to
question whether any modern industrial nation would continue to use them.

One last comment: when I was teaching, I experimented with using serif and sans
serif fonts in handouts. Nobody noticed or commented one way or the other. Of
course, a difference could be operating that most people are unaware of.
However, I wonder whether those who were condemning the recent discussion of
sentence spacing as meaningless feel the same way about this discussion?
Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604-421.7177


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RE: Usability: Serif and Sans-Serif font faces?: From: Solena . LEMOIGNE

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