Typefaces discussion

Subject: Typefaces discussion
From: Kathy Barreto <barreto -at- DREGGS -dot- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1993 11:31:07 MST

It sounds like you're primarily concerned with paper-based documents,
and there are plenty of issues to address there. Are you also thinking
of online versions of the same documents? If there's any chance that
your docs will be network-accessible or published on other media
(like disk or CD-ROM), on-screen readability is also a big

A few years ago we converted from TeX to Frame on the Mac (whew!),
and adopted Times and Helvetica as our default style. Then we
formed a style committee that comprised corporate marketing,
pubs, and training, and spent about 9 months hashing out a new
corporate style. We chose the Bembo family for our standard font,
primarily because it looks good and crisp, and its very
readable on paper.

But we forgot to consider a biggie. We put most of our documents on
servers so customers can download them, and online docs have to be in
ascii or some generic font that just about any platform can use
(read Times and Helvetica here, *the* universal fonts). We
use Macs, and apparently when you create a PostScript file, the
Mac includes the entire font set with the file itself. So we had
huge files that were too big or took too long to download over
the net, and in some cases they were too big for customers to
open when they *did* get them downloaded.

So we went back to Times/Helvetica to accomodate the downloadable
versions. Unfortunately, Times is *very* hard to read on a
console or display screen. If it weren't for Frame's ability
to display pages at greater-than-normal scale, I'd be about blind
by now.

And now the fun is *really* about to begin; we'll have all of our
docs published on CD-ROM in about a month or so. The documents
use our new standard, Times/Helvetica, but the search & display engine
on the CD-ROM lets users change the text to their font of choice.

So, in a nutshell, our rally for readability had to take a back
seat to accomodate electronic files and network access. Paper is
no longer the default; our style is in a constant state of flux
to accomodate the newest media types. Anyway, it's something to
keep in mind if you're looking at font properties and readability.

Kathy Barreto
barreto -at- cisco -dot- com

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