Re: Developer's guide

Subject: Re: Developer's guide
From: Dick Margulis <ampersandvirgule -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 20:51:24 -0400

":--)" wrote a buncha stuff about serif vs sans-serif for text, an
interesting story, actually, that I have snipped in order to be an
obedient list member.

I have a related question, though.

With all this palaver, apocrypha, mishegas about "testing" serif vs.
sans-serif fonts, has anyone actually involved a typographer in the
study? I ask not to whine but to raise an issue. A well designed, well
composed text passage is likely (IMHO) to be more readable than a poorly
designed or poorly composed passage. One set in a well proportioned font
designed for readability is likely (IMHO) to be more readable than one
set in a font that is designed for display rather than for text,
regardless of which one has serifs.

Karen Schriver touched on this in _Dynamics in Document Design_; but I
think that this is an aspect of readability testing that has not been
addressed adequately.

I can put together a printed page for an imagesetter or a laser printer,
as well as a web page, that is readable using serif fonts or sans-serif
fonts; and I can put one together that is unreadable with either.

There are thousands--no, tens of thousands--of available fonts. There
are dozens, at least, of programs that purport to compose type for the
screen or the page. Not all are of equal quality.

Is someone running tests based on the output of MS Word?!? of
FrameMaker? PageMaker? Interleaf? Penta? TeX? It makes a difference. Are
the fonts Times and Arial? Or are the Bembo and Frutiger? Bodoni and
Groteque No. 9? Are line length, point size, and leading adjusted so the
character counts and visual spacing match? What does that question mean
absent the judgment of a typographer? And if we insert the judgment of a
typographer, how controlled is the test?

See where I'm going with this?

Craft counts. Production values count. Materials count. The question
does not have a single answer that can be applied automatically by
everyone and anyone. But everyone and anyone can benefit from learning
more about the craft or deferring to the judgment of someone who has
studied and practiced it. The fact that you sit in front of a computer
that has word processing or publishing software installed on it does not
mean you are a printer.



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