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It’s Really Quite Funny
some thoughts on which font is BEST
hich typeface (or font if you prefer it that way) is the easiest to read, especially by less-accomplished readers?
Mr Pirde thought hard and long
And bought then for his desk at home,
A new computer – shiny clean!
Next he had to learn the ways,
And he had been to school.
There he’d learned that if you knew,
The facts of things you will succeed,
And he who asks will get reward.
Miss Gefitt was there at hand,
An expert, she, in all that moved.
She lifted her red-painted nail,
And pointed it at Mr Pirde.
There are rules, said she,
And them that fails them,
Will be told they’ve done it wrong.
See those fonts that drop down manifold,
And their sizes, there to choose;
If you don’t select these right
Your writings will be never read,
By those of limited faculties.
Gosh! said Mr Pirde, I’m so impressed,
With your wealth of certainty!
Yes, said she, I have been told these things,
Determinedly by expert folk.
Mr Pirde now knew, he had a rule,
And he could rest contentedly,
Uncertainty and things that have no bounds,
Are really, really scary.
It’s them desktop computers what have done it, everyone wants to know what is the best font to use, for the readability. Barking up the wrong tree?
barking up wrong tree
If you are given a choice, then it does seem to be a natural human need to want to know which, among the choices you are given, is the best choice to make. This despite the experience that in many things, there is no absolute single choice. No one eats the same thing every day – well some do, but they are generally considered to be rather weird.
Different fonts are used for different reasons; even if there was one that turned out by some magic to be ‘easier to read’ (whatever that means) than others, to use it all the time and everywhere would make life dull, tedious, utilitarian and poor and the theory would last about three days.
Look at a newspaper: one aimed at the less erudite readership. What font do they use? Well of course they don’t use a single font, they break up the page with variety. A uniform font would make the page heavy and turgid. Next, roll the newspaper into a tube, and whack those bar-stool experts over the head with it.
Look out of your window, at the people walking the streets peering into their hand-held phone, how big is that type size, that they are not having the slightest problem in reading!
I blame the education system (in most countries) that still seems to want to instil in people the idea that there is an answer to anything. Anyway it is amusing, provided you are not a designer battling with the self-assigned experts, how so many people have become an undisputed expert on all of this, since they got their desktop computer.
In the old days, a lot of lettering was done by hand. Very little is now, which has made everything much more uniform and in my view less satisfactory. The next stage, I hope, is for the computer to introduce the type of imperfections, or variations perhaps one should say, that are inherent in hand lettering, so that a computer-produced typeface is less regimented. This may not be right for long passages of text, I’m not sure, but will be a fresh relief for display type. A kind of AI for type. Something else on my list to work on.
There is also the issue of how type in one colour, is perceived over a background of a different colour. Or indeed over a cacophony of colours and shades. The latter is usually resolved by using bright text with a dark outline or vice-versa. For readability or legibility of one coloured text over a background of a different colour, see my page Text Readability in Colour.


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