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I used to design books and studied the uses of fonts. For the most part you
should not mix and match serif and san serif (heads serif, text san serif).
Looks awful and accomplishes nothing in readability.
In the 1970s there were lots of studies going on because san serif usage was
increasing among young designers. (Even Scientific American published some
articles.) Essentially the preference and ease of comprehension a person has
for serif or san serif derives from the school text books they used in
elementary school. People educated before the early 1950s had, for the most
part (there are exceptions), had their textbooks produced with a serif type.
Therefore they find that more familiar and have better comprehension. Along
about 1954, or so, textbooks began changing to san serif type and by the end
of the 1950s (when Helvetica finally became a standard type face). So those
educated after about mid-1950 find san serif type more comfortable to read.
(There have been reading comprehension studies done on this and reading
comprehension improves depnding on the type font, serif or san serif, with
which you are more familiar.)
In the early 1970s magazines started using san serif fonts for their text
(Psychology today was one of the first.) That's because younger san
serif-raised younger designers started doing design work.
So, when deciding on a whether to use a serif or san serif font think of your
reader. Are they older or younger? Also think of their profession. For the
most part lawyer's books and reference materials are written in serif fonts
(especially Century and Century Schoolbook). Scientific information tends to
be written in san serif fonts.
--Yvette (who collects fonts and has over 15,000 serif and san serif to