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

Subject: Re: Usability: Serif and Sans-Serif font faces?
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 06 Jun 2004 08:27:56 -0400

nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il wrote:

Serifs began as a mitigation by stonecutters for the
problem of irradiation--the tendency of cracks to extend diagonally

For what it's worth, the legend I heard is that serifs
began as guides for spacing. The stonecutter would say
"I have to carve AVE ATQUE VALE and I have three cubits. That's about a quarter cubit per letter. So the A will go from HERE to HERE and the V will go from HERE to HERE..."

The sort of investigation that can distinguish between plausible inference and bubbameissa is usually conducted by archaeologists who try to reproduce artifacts using chronistic technology. This kind of investigation has been applied to everything from flaking stone to make arrowheads to punching tin to make a lantern, the point being to see how a person of ordinary intelligence might have made the artifact in an economic way. These studies often end up with new insights into what tools might have been used, how they were used, and what level of skill was needed to use them so as to avoid starvation. (If it takes a month of hard work to craft a working arrow, you'd be better off eating nuts than shooting squirrels, right?)

I think if you talk to anyone who works with stone and chisel (there are still sculptors and craft artisans who do that, even though grave markers aren't made that way anymore), you'll find that irradiation is a real phenomenon and serifs do indeed help. The physics is pretty convincing, too.

I'm reasonably certain that the "legend" you heard is pure fantasy concocted by some graphics instructor offering a speculation in response to a student inquiry and has no basis in fact. It is fairly safe to assume that the artisan who had to carve AVE ATQUE VALE first sketched the letters--perhaps with chalk or some other soft marker--before proceeding to cut, and made any needed size and spacing adjustments in the erasable medium.



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RE: Usability: Serif and Sans-Serif font faces?: From: nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il

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