RE: document design: I don't know what I don't know

Subject: RE: document design: I don't know what I don't know
From: Fred Ridder <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <lynne -dot- wright -at- tiburoninc -dot- com>, <gps03 -at- health -dot- state -dot- ny -dot- us>, <becca -at- di -dot- org>
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 12:52:27 -0400


Lynne Write wrote:


> The fundamentals of which fonts are most readable on-screen and/vs in print are pretty basic (hint: non-serif faces look more modern and display better at all resolutions because the stroke width of the letter components don't vary from thin to thicker as they do in serif fonts)

I'm sorry, but I think what you have stated is incorrect unless I'm misreading it. Were you saying that sans-serif faces don't have strokes that get as thin as serif faces? That I can agree with as a broad generalization (although there are some obvious exceptions). But what you seemed to be saying is that sans-serif faces don't vary the strike width, and that I have to disagree with.

If you look closely at the most commonly used sans-serif faces you'll see some variation in the stroke widths. Even Helvetica, which is often cited as a no-contrast face (meaning that there is no variation in the width of the main strokes that form the letters) has some narrowing of the rounded strokes where the bowls of lower-case letters like d, p, and q, and the shoulders of letters like m, n, and r join the vertical strokes.

And on the other hand, there are some slab-serif typefaces (Courier being the most common example) that are true monoweight designs with no variation at all in stroke width

As far as readability goes, it is true that typefaces with extreme contrast (e.g., Bodoni) can be fatiguing to read. It is also true that some faces with very low contrast can be hard to read, but in many cases that appears to be due to other factors (e.g., extremely geometrical letterforms) in addition to the lack of contrast. Readability studies of sans-serif vs. serif have been inconclusive, but there does appear to be some cultural and/or familiarity effect involved with European readers seeming to prefer sans-serif slightly and North American readers seeming to prefer serif faces slightly, but even this seems to be changing as people spend more time reading hand-held devices, which typically use sans-serif faces.

-Fred Ridder




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Follow-Ups:

References:
document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Becca
Re: document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Gregory P Sweet
RE: document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Lynne Wright

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