Arial vs Vernada?

7 Jan 2008 - 11:43am
4 years ago
47 replies
3648 reads
bmeunier
2007

For a better reading experience: *Arial or Verdana?*

- If Arial is smaller than Verdana, why do we use arial for the majority of
web apps?
- If there any studies or facts about that?

Comments?

--
Benoît Meunier
+1 514-574-3142

www.benoitmeunier.info

Comments

7 Jan 2008 - 12:16pm
Michael Micheletti
2006

On Jan 7, 2008 8:43 AM, Benoît Meunier <meunier.benoit at gmail.com> wrote:

> - If Arial is smaller than Verdana, why do we use arial for the majority
> of
> web apps?
>

Hi Benoît,

Many websites have screen real-estate issues. Arial is a narrower font than
Verdana, so using Arial permits a greater number of characters in the same
area width at the same font size. Arial is also something of a habit for
many web developers so simple inertia carries it. Consider also Tahoma and
Geneva if you are searching for a readable sans-serif font.

One of the more challenging things to do in web typography is to trust your
eyes. There are so many opinions out there. When creating a site template or
stylesheet, try it out with several of the different browser fonts and see
which looks best. Ask others to evaluate which of two or three well-realized
choices they prefer.

This page is a good resource of which fonts are currently available on
common operating systems and browsers:
http://www.ampsoft.net/webdesign-l/WindowsMacFonts.html

Whichever font is prefered, be sure and use CSS callouts that include
secondary and default fonts. That will make sure that site visitors with
various operating systems see something agreeable. For instance:

p.lovely {font: normal 1em Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif;}

I hope this is helpful. All the best,

Michael Micheletti

7 Jan 2008 - 12:21pm
Julie Palmer
2007

We just addressed the same question at my company. During my research, I did find a report online that indicated that Verdana was preferred significantly over Arial (it's so much more open), but the trade-off in spacing are tremendous. Unfortunately, I can't find it to send you the link.)

Tahoma is a nice compromise, and unless the majority of your end users are Windows NT users, you should be okay on Windows. Of course, your CSS would always need to have some options (for instance: Tahoma, Helvetica, Arial, Sans-serif), but Tahoma (and Trebuchet for that matter) ships with most Windows versions up through Vista. Here's a good article that compares them: http://www.webaim.org/techniques/fonts/#screenfonts

Now, Vista opens up a whole new can of worms with the new (and quite lovely) "C" fonts. I get the impression they will be shipped "instead of" and not "in addition to" the familiar core fonts. This article is worth a read: http://www.hunlock.com/blogs/Downloading_and_Using_Vista_Web_Fonts.

Julie

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Benoît Meunier
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 11:44 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Arial vs Vernada?

For a better reading experience: *Arial or Verdana?*

- If Arial is smaller than Verdana, why do we use arial for the majority of
web apps?
- If there any studies or facts about that?

Comments?

--
Benoît Meunier
+1 514-574-3142

www.benoitmeunier.info
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7 Jan 2008 - 1:02pm
M S
2006

I noticed that Google uses Arial in majority of webapps, while
Microsoft use Verdana.

Another thing is that recently Microsoft has changed font for search
results @ live.com from Verdana to Arial.
As to me, Arial looks "softer"...

--
Maxim

7 Jan 2008 - 1:53pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 8:43 AM, Benoît Meunier wrote:

> For a better reading experience: *Arial or Verdana?*

Arial is a bastardized version of Helvetica created because those in
charge of the operating system didn't want to pay the license fee
that would be required to put a proper font on their computer. (Both
Apple and Microsoft are guilty of this.) My general preference for
specifying the fonts for anything on a web site is generally:
Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial, Sans Serif. In that order.

Even as a bastardized version, Arial is still more readable and
flexible for web projects that require heavy amounts of copy.

There's a long history behind Tahoma and Verdana that I won't go
into. You can Google that. But Tahoma was made to give Windows95 a
new look and feel for the screen, back when screen resolutions and
such were much lower than they are today. (At the time, Apple had
Chicago and Espy, and Microsoft was looking to create their own
aesthetic to compete.) Tahoma was basically designed for 9px, 10px,
11px and 12x sizes only. (Maybe 13px as well, I forget off the top of
my head.) And by designed, I mean pixel for pixel design, not
outlines and curves like PostScript or TrueType fonts. It was hinted
specifically for screen pixels at those specific sizes.

Verdana was created as a variation of Tahoma for web work because
Microsoft seemed to want the same aesthetic but needed a font that
could be read with dense body copy. The web was just booming at that
time and Tahoma looks like junk when used as body copy because it was
designed mostly to be labels for dialog boxes. It has a much too wide
feel for long stretches of copy. As such, Verdana is certainly more
readable as body copy, but again, it was designed for certain small
screen sizes, 9px through 12px. Try using Verdana as a 20px headline
and it looks like crap.

So, if you all you care about is body copy set specifically at 10px
or 11px, then Verdana is fine. The moment you want to use it for
headlines and such, you're out of luck and will need to specify a
different headline font. I tend to specify Helvetiva Neue and Arial
so I don't have to worry about the issue. Arial is tolerable and with
ClearType turned on with bigger screens, in my opinion it looks far
better than Verdana ever will.

> - If there any studies or facts about that?

You don't use studies or "facts" to choose a typeface. That would be
like using a study that claims red is always the best color to use
for company backgrounds.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Jan 2008 - 2:30pm
russwilson
2005

Andrei,

But isn't a serif font more readable at 10px/12px for blocks of text?

- Russ

Russell Wilson
Vice President of Product Design, NetQoS
http://www.dexodesign.com

On Jan 7, 2008 12:53 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk <andrei at involutionstudios.com>
wrote:

> On Jan 7, 2008, at 8:43 AM, Benoît Meunier wrote:
>
> > For a better reading experience: *Arial or Verdana?*
>
> Arial is a bastardized version of Helvetica created because those in
> charge of the operating system didn't want to pay the license fee
> that would be required to put a proper font on their computer. (Both
> Apple and Microsoft are guilty of this.) My general preference for
> specifying the fonts for anything on a web site is generally:
> Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial, Sans Serif. In that order.
>
> Even as a bastardized version, Arial is still more readable and
> flexible for web projects that require heavy amounts of copy.
>
> There's a long history behind Tahoma and Verdana that I won't go
> into. You can Google that. But Tahoma was made to give Windows95 a
> new look and feel for the screen, back when screen resolutions and
> such were much lower than they are today. (At the time, Apple had
> Chicago and Espy, and Microsoft was looking to create their own
> aesthetic to compete.) Tahoma was basically designed for 9px, 10px,
> 11px and 12x sizes only. (Maybe 13px as well, I forget off the top of
> my head.) And by designed, I mean pixel for pixel design, not
> outlines and curves like PostScript or TrueType fonts. It was hinted
> specifically for screen pixels at those specific sizes.
>
> Verdana was created as a variation of Tahoma for web work because
> Microsoft seemed to want the same aesthetic but needed a font that
> could be read with dense body copy. The web was just booming at that
> time and Tahoma looks like junk when used as body copy because it was
> designed mostly to be labels for dialog boxes. It has a much too wide
> feel for long stretches of copy. As such, Verdana is certainly more
> readable as body copy, but again, it was designed for certain small
> screen sizes, 9px through 12px. Try using Verdana as a 20px headline
> and it looks like crap.
>
> So, if you all you care about is body copy set specifically at 10px
> or 11px, then Verdana is fine. The moment you want to use it for
> headlines and such, you're out of luck and will need to specify a
> different headline font. I tend to specify Helvetiva Neue and Arial
> so I don't have to worry about the issue. Arial is tolerable and with
> ClearType turned on with bigger screens, in my opinion it looks far
> better than Verdana ever will.
>
> > - If there any studies or facts about that?
>
> You don't use studies or "facts" to choose a typeface. That would be
> like using a study that claims red is always the best color to use
> for company backgrounds.
>
> --
> Andrei Herasimchuk
>
> Principal, Involution Studios
> innovating the digital world
>
> e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
> c. +1 408 306 6422
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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>

--
Russell Wilson
Vice President, Product Design
NetQoS
Personal Blog: http://www.dexodesign.com

7 Jan 2008 - 4:05pm
M S
2006

> But isn't a serif font more readable at 10px/12px for blocks of text?
I think it's not because of low screen dpi versus higher dpi on paper.

Also you might find this link interesting:
http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/41/onlinetext.htm

--
Maxim

7 Jan 2008 - 4:49pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 11:30 AM, Russell Wilson wrote:

> But isn't a serif font more readable at 10px/12px for blocks of text?

Only if the output medium has the resolution to handle the detail.
Computer screens are still vastly inferior with regard to resolution
to paper printouts in this regard, and will be so for probably
another five to ten years at least. In the short term, sans serif is
better to go for smaller type and smaller blocks of copy. (Smaller
means less than 14px/pt.)

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Jan 2008 - 5:21pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 1:05 PM, Maxim Soloviev wrote:

> Also you might find this link interesting:
> http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/41/onlinetext.htm

Sidenote: This goes back to the conversation about usability feedback
and knowledge a few weeks ago.

When I read sentences in a report like this that states:

"Fonts designed for print, such as Times, were created for both
legibility and economy of print space. Georgia, on the other hand,
was designed specifically for computer-display. Georgia is somewhat
similar in appearance to Times. However to make Georgia more legible
for computer-screen viewing, its uppercase characters were lightened
and the letters’ x-height (the height of the torso for lowercase
letters, such as an 'x') was increased."

As a designer I tend to negate and ignore the entire report. Why?
Because Times and Georgia are *nothing* like each other. Not even
close. Not even "somewhat similar in appearance." Further, Georgia is
heavier and larger all around to make it more readable on the
computer screen. It's pixels are denser specifically to make it more
readable on a low resolution device like a computer screen. The fact
the person who wrote the report stated otherwise tells me right off
the bat that the report isn't worth my time.

But then even after reading this reports, the tests themselves are
also questionable. Reading speed is often meaningless in gauging
whether a font is useful. Everyone reads at different speeds based on
a variety of factors, not the least of which are things like line
length, overall copy color, leading, and other typographic rules, all
of which are different based on whichever font is chosen. And faster
reading speed has no impact on the utility of any font to be honest.
Legibility is the only thing that matters, which again is affected by
more factors than simply the chosen font face.

Further, it appears they tested the fonts without anti-aliasing
turned on. With anti-aliasing turned off, the legibility of nearly
all fonts at small sizes is about the same. That is to say, they all
are mostly crap since pixelated fonts at small sizes can only have so
many variations to be even legible in the first place. It's like a
font for LED displays, there's not much yo can do. The details
between fonts only come into play with more resolution and anti-
aliasing turned on.

In general... this study is a perfect example of why you should
ignore studies when choosing a font.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Jan 2008 - 5:30pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 2:16 PM, Callie Neylan wrote:

> Not true. Sometimes you do refer to type readability studies. Like
> when you're designing typefaces for highway signs. And for people
> with visual impairments.

The highway sign is an example of validation, not in using a study to
literally *choose* the font itself. That's an important distinction.
In other words, the testing done on the highway signs was *very
specific* to the font designed, and tested to make sure it satisfied
the requirement of legibility at distances, in fog, in rain, with
headlights hitting it, fast speeds, etc. That's vastly different than
using a study to determine what font you should use for a web site.

Typographers spend a massive amount of time testing the legibility of
their work. It's built into their DNA and their process of work. In
that regard, they are doing that to validate their design for its
intended purpose. But what they don't do is what is done in that
linked study, which is a backwards way of testing "font usefulness."

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Jan 2008 - 5:45pm
Dane Storrusten...
2008

Jared wrote:
> But isn't a serif font more readable at 10px/12px for blocks of text?

Andrei wrote:
> Only if the output medium has the resolution to handle the detail...

This isn't entirely true. I would vote with confidence that serif typefaces (select few) read more efficiently than sans serif in the context of body text or paragraphs, no matter what medium (digital display or print). The addition of thinner columns opposed to wider is an additional factor as well but disregard that for now.

The mix-up between serif and sans serif typefaces (for body text) in today's digital world is a battle between conscious visual aesthetics and subconscious reading comprehension.

Sans serif tends to look cleaner and slicker than serif typefaces when the type display is degraded. However, this doesn't necessarily mean serif typefaces are less effective.

My analysis on this subject (working with 8th grade reading levels in Military software products) leads me to believe that when these two typeface (types) are tested against each other in the context of body text or paragraphs... users are often confused with what is visually pleasing to them, overall, rather than what reads most efficiently (i.e. visual appearance is weighed evenly with readability). So because both are readable due to users capturing shapes of words rather than each individual character, they tend to lean toward sans serif being "better" because it's overall appearance seems to have more integrity (or is just preferred for whatever reason), even though they struggle slightly more with comprehension (subconsciously).

This is also a reason not to blindly depend on user's preferences to make design decisions, but that's another thread.

Easiest test, make two identical paragraphs (alias or anti-alias), one with a serif font and san serif font... then read them to yourself. I think you'll find serif more effortless to read and comprehend.

--

Dane Storrusten
Microsoft Surface
User Experience Design
818.308.6557

We are hiring!
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7 Jan 2008 - 5:16pm
Callie Neylan
2007

Not true. Sometimes you do refer to type readability studies. Like
when you're designing typefaces for highway signs. And for people
with visual impairments.

.c

Callie Neylan, MFA | Visual + Interaction Design | NEYLAN DESIGN
COMPANY | T 206 718 9909 | F 206 400 1664 | E hello at callieneylan.com

On Jan 7, 2008, at 10:53 AM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

>> - If there any studies or facts about that?
>
> You don't use studies or "facts" to choose a typeface. That would be
> like using a study that claims red is always the best color to use
> for company backgrounds.

7 Jan 2008 - 6:45pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 2:45 PM, Dane Storrusten wrote:

> This isn't entirely true. I would vote with confidence that serif
> typefaces (select few) read more efficiently than sans serif in the
> context of body text or paragraphs, no matter what medium (digital
> display or print). The addition of thinner columns opposed to wider
> is an additional factor as well but disregard that for now.

There are only a a very few typefaces that do and the ones that do
are generally designed only for modern, higher resolution computer
screens at small sizes. (A few of the new "C" typefaces and Georgia
can fall into this category if spec'd very specifically and in
controlled contexts)

> The mix-up between serif and sans serif typefaces (for body text)
> in today's digital world is a battle between conscious visual
> aesthetics and subconscious reading comprehension.

I disagree. The mix-up has been due to largely to the fact that serif
type on low-resolution devices has been next to unreadable,
especially when pixelated. This is a technological constraint that
forced a work-around in a certain time period. That work around was
to use a san serif font which has far fewer aliasing issues on low-
res devices.

It's similar to the problem that happened with typewriters. The lack
or true typesetting and kerning between letterforms created the need
to add multiple spaces behind periods to breakup the copy to make it
more readable, to the degree that now breaking people of that
technological habit has been difficult for those in certain age
ranges that learned the rule. The rule is now no longer needed given
typewriters have been replaced with devices that allow for more
accurate typesetting.

In the near future, screens will have sufficient resolution to
accommodate serif fonts at smaller sizes, allowing designers to set
body copy with serif fonts which tend to be more readable in large
blocks of content due to the fact that detail of the letterforms
actually makes it easier for the brain to process that kind of
information.

> So because both are readable due to users capturing shapes of words
> rather than each individual character, they tend to lean toward
> sans serif being "better" because it's overall appearance seems to
> have more integrity...

Which is a direct result of technology of the computer screen. Which
is my point.

> Easiest test, make two identical paragraphs (alias or anti-alias),
> one with a serif font and san serif font... then read them to
> yourself. I think you'll find serif more effortless to read and
> comprehend.

Only if the resolution of device you are reading on can hold the
details of the serifs. Try using those serif fonts on low res devices
like cell phones.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

8 Jan 2008 - 11:16am
Todd Warfel
2003

Personally, every time I come across serif at 10px, my eyes strain to
read it. I have to increase my font size to make it tolerable. As much
as I love NYT.com, that's one of the things that drives me nuts about
it.

Here's what I'm running, which is pretty standard for a MacBook Pro:
Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.1
Safari Version 3.0.4 (5523.10.6)
1044x900

On Jan 7, 2008, at 2:30 PM, Russell Wilson wrote:

> But isn't a serif font more readable at 10px/12px for blocks of text?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

8 Jan 2008 - 12:15pm
Jeff Seager
2007

I think it's also worth noting that Arial is still more commonly
installed than Verdana, if you consider all devices and all
platforms. It's been around quite a while longer. When I specify
Verdana for web design, I set Arial and the generic "sans-serif" as
fallbacks because each is progressively more likely to be installed by
default. Most users will have all three, and my guess is that more
than 95 percent will have Arial.

I had long ago bookmarked the same link Maxim sent. The study's
conclusions are a bit too broad, but I think they still have merit. I
agree generally with Andrei on the issue of font readability and the
characteristics of serif and sans-serif fonts, but this bit strikes
fear in my heart: "In the near future, screens will have sufficient
resolution to accommodate serif fonts at smaller sizes, allowing
designers to set body copy with serif fonts which tend to be more
readable in large blocks of content ..."

True enough for those like us on the cutting edge of technology, or
those designing only for high-resolution devices. Not true for users
who will eke the last glowing pixel out of their dirty beige 15-inch
SVGA monitors. I'm one of those ill-mannered people who reminds
designers that they can't count on all users having the equivalent
of their own quad-core dual-monitor nitrogen-cooled supercomputers
with high-speed internet connection. And designers hate me for it. Go
ahead. Take a number and get in line.

Low-vision users I've interviewed remind me that contrast has a lot
to do with readability, and that there seems to be an optimum range
of contrast that's comfortable for most users -- probably all users.
I'd like to be able to put numbers on that contrast range, if anyone
has data (hah! -- as if you'd share it now that I've invited your
scorn).

Too little contrast is well known to cause eye fatigue, but for many
people a common frustration is too much contrast. Any small black
type on white screens causes tremendous eye strain if you're reading
a lot of text, because you're actually glaring directly into a light
source. We almost instinctively control the light and contrast of a
written page by adjusting ambient lighting, but most users aren't
yet conditioned to modify screen settings at will.

The more robust fonts like Verdana, Georgia and even Rockwell are
more accepted on the Web than traditional printing fonts. Even the
dreaded Comic Sans has a following. That's at least partly because
their shape and weight enhance their overall contrast, and this
directly affects readability on all platforms. I still love some of
the more traditional fonts (Palatino, Garamond, Bookman, Helvetica,
and others), but in most cases I'd be inclined to use them only as
display fonts when designing for the screen -- until *everyone* has
very-hi-def.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

8 Jan 2008 - 2:20pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 8, 2008, at 9:15 AM, Jeff Seager wrote:

> I had long ago bookmarked the same link Maxim sent. The study's
> conclusions are a bit too broad, but I think they still have merit.

I'm curious... how does that study have any merit?

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

8 Jan 2008 - 2:20pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 8, 2008, at 9:15 AM, Jeff Seager wrote:

> I had long ago bookmarked the same link Maxim sent. The study's
> conclusions are a bit too broad, but I think they still have merit.

I'm curious... how does that study have any merit?

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

8 Jan 2008 - 3:42pm
Jeff Seager
2007

For me, perceived legibility is important because I serve users with
visual impairments that range from peripheral vision loss to total
blindness. Some of them use screen magnifiers, which can be a PITA to
navigate with. Any slight legibility advantage for them translates to
less magnification and an experience that's more like yours and
mine.

Perceived attractiveness matters less to me, but I think the
impressions of the people studied might be important for some
designers, marketing people and the like.

The fonts included in the study are still among the most-used online
fonts, even five years later, so that seems relevant too.

Less than half of the study has any merit from my point of view, but
those bits may be worth knowing. Would a larger sampling be more
valid? Sure. Based on some experience with low-vision users, I don't
think the "perceived legibility" results would change much unless we
added another font designed specifically for people with impaired
vision. As far as I know, that font doesn't yet exist.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

8 Jan 2008 - 4:55pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 8, 2008, at 12:42 PM, Jeff Seager wrote:

> For me, perceived legibility is important because I serve users with
> visual impairments that range from peripheral vision loss to total
> blindness.

The issue though is that "perceived legibility" is determined by the
total of all typographic settings, which includes leading, kerning,
color, rivers, line length, contrast and even composition rules...
plus other variables tossed into the mix as well. Testing only the
"type face" is effectively useless.

This report uses a false premise as the basis for it's findings. As
result, the report itself is pretty much useless. It's like the old
research rule: Garbage data in, garbage data out. (Or something to
that effect.)

> Less than half of the study has any merit from my point of view, but
> those bits may be worth knowing.

This type of report is actually more harmful than helpful because
those that conducted it seem to understand little about the topic
they are researching. It's worse that they put it out there so that
others who may not know better derive inappropriate conclusions from it.

> Based on some experience with low-vision users, I don't
> think the "perceived legibility" results would change much unless we
> added another font designed specifically for people with impaired
> vision. As far as I know, that font doesn't yet exist.

We have plenty of type faces to work with. Even Arial as a web font
is tolerable if inelegant from a typographic point of view. But it's
not the font face that's the problem. It's the typography, or lack or
proper typographic elegance, as implemented in the design of most
digital products that impacts legibility, perceived or otherwise.

I highly recommend Robert Bringhurst's "The Elements of Typographic
Style." It's a thousand times more valuable than this poorly
conducted research study.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

9 Jan 2008 - 10:45am
Jeff Seager
2007

Well, Andrei, I've thought about this on and off for about a day now
(I really must get a life) and -- subtracting my ego from the
equation -- I do agree with your scathing criticism of that study.

I had liked it because it generally confirmed my own subjective
impressions and experience, which also are unscientific but based on
many years as a fan and a user of good typography in print media --
and several years of experience assisting people with visual (and
other) disabilities. Mea culpa.

So back to the original question, now that we've savaged this study:
Are there valid studies/discussions of this topic available? Benoit
may still want to know. I've found these, for our further
consideration:

# Bringhurst's book excerpted online at http://webtypography.net/

# http://www.webaim.org/techniques/fonts/

# http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt6/html-email-fonts.htm (here,
especially, some of the examples call attention to Andrei's points
about line-length and other results of inexpert testing ... if the
examples shown are an indication of what was tested, 12-point Arial
and 12-point Verdana cannot be reasonably compared using the same
column width because the optimum line length is different for each)

#
http://www.maxkiesler.com/index.php/weblog/comments/the_web_20_big_font_controversy/

All these, including the study from Wichita, have value in focusing
our attention on the way we use typography. If we apply our own
critical thinking skills, we can probably distill all this into a
better understanding. And maybe even design a better study of our
own, if we're so inclined.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

10 Jan 2008 - 1:58am
cfmdesigns
2004

On Jan 7, 2008, at 3:45 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> It's similar to the problem that happened with typewriters. The lack
> or true typesetting and kerning between letterforms created the need
> to add multiple spaces behind periods to breakup the copy to make it
> more readable, to the degree that now breaking people of that
> technological habit has been difficult for those in certain age
> ranges that learned the rule. The rule is now no longer needed given
> typewriters have been replaced with devices that allow for more
> accurate typesetting.

I'd buy into this if I saw any indication that applications tended to
put anything but the same size space at the end of a sentence as
between words. But they don't seem to. But maybe InDesign does. I
know many DTP apps have the ability to dynamically shift the width of
spaces in justified text -- and the spacing between letters, too -- to
improve letter packing or other mechanisms, so assuming that the end
of a sentence can actually be detected with reasonable fidelity, it
wouldn't be hard to provide extra width between sentences.

But until I see a whole lot more apps doing it automatically,
including browsers, the only way to ensure that sentences make
themselves visually separated for improved chunking and readability
seems to be to do it manually. (Or to stop caring. Nope, can't
manage that.)

-- Jim Drew
cfmdesigns at earthlink.net

10 Jan 2008 - 3:28am
Jeff Howard
2004

Hi Jim,

This kind of thing could probably be resolved more decisively over on
the typophile.com forums, but what you're suggesting goes against
everything I've learned about typography.

There's a fine distinction between separating sentences and creating
a gap that interrupts flow. Unless you're using a monospace font like
Courier or Monaco, one space after a period should be enough to create
that separation.

// jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

10 Jan 2008 - 3:59am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 9, 2008, at 10:58 PM, Jim Drew wrote:

> I'd buy into this if I saw any indication that applications tended to
> put anything but the same size space at the end of a sentence as
> between words. But they don't seem to.

If the font is defined as proportional and not monospaced -- which is
basically everything except Courier or Monaco for all practical
purposes -- it by definition has variable width defined and built
directly into it. This includes the width definition of things like
spaces, which is different from font to font. The font metrics then
handle things like spacing and if the application doesn't have its
own text rendering engine, then the operating system handles
rendering the basic core pieces as defined in the font metrics.

IOW, it's not really an application thing.

> But maybe InDesign does. I
> know many DTP apps have the ability to dynamically shift the width of
> spaces in justified text -- and the spacing between letters, too -- to
> improve letter packing or other mechanisms, so assuming that the end
> of a sentence can actually be detected with reasonable fidelity, it
> wouldn't be hard to provide extra width between sentences.

No matter how crappy the application you use on the computer (and
Microsoft Word is about as crappy as it gets with regard to
typography), the operating system is often handling the core type
rendering, even in the worst case scenario. And the operating system
is either using TrueType or OpenType which respects many core metrics
of the font to handle basic spacing issues. I will say however that
if you use a Macintosh, the font rendering is a thousand times better
than on Windows, even if the MacOS still lacks a truly sophisticated
type engine like one finds in products like InDesign. (Mostly due to
technological constraints like RAM use and processing speed and such.)

Outside of this, adding extra spaces is basically breaking the
metrics of the font as implemented carefully by the font designer,
and when using a product that actually does handle the font even more
properly than the core OS does, completely ruins the overall river
control, flow and color of the type.

> But until I see a whole lot more apps doing it automatically,
> including browsers, the only way to ensure that sentences make
> themselves visually separated for improved chunking and readability
> seems to be to do it manually.

Sorry... I couldn't disagree more.

Most applications and the operating system still ignore proper
kerning rules for certain glyph pairs, like the classic "AV" example.
But as a general rule, the core metrics that are used in rendering
fonts are plenty fine for legibility -- as long as all of the core
typographical rules, like those found in Bringhurst's "The Elements
of Typographic Style," are respected and used by the designer. The
problem I think you are experiencing and that most people experience
without realizing it is just how badly our typographic world has
become in the past ten to twenty years due to explosions in
technology without a better core foundation for elegant type
rendering, combined often with a lack of typographic training of
designers working on digital products. (Which is why I make the claim
interaction designers need a core understanding of the fundamentals
of typography. That alone would remedy so many issues in the design
of digital products it's not even funny.)

SIDENOTE: I love the new type revolution happening on so many high
profile web sites like The New York Times and CNN. It's really
awesome to see the designers of those sites start to spend so much
more time trying to make everything more elegant with regard to how
they spec their type. It still has a some ways to go (mostly with
issues of contrast for those folks who prefer higher contrast
reading), but it's a very good sign that things are finally about to
turn the corner, I think.

Adding extra spaces after periods is really a very bad habit formed
when the large majority of corporate communication was ruled by
technology that could only use monospaced fonts -- that is of course
the typewriter, and the typewriter lasted a few generations, so it
had plenty of time to entrench itself. Further, it's a habit that
will wind up hurting you once the technology gets even better and
renders type with even more sophistication, which is not that far off
on the horizon quite frankly.

In other words, when the eBook of the near future catches up to the
printing press in terms of display resolution and type rendering
sophistication and you start doing all the self publishing of your
writing, little hacks like adding extra spaces would effectively ruin
all that amazing technological progress. That kind of predicament
would kind of be similar to the same problem of trying to get the
United States to switch to the metric system that we currently
experience. Once it's ingrained and entrenched, changing it is near
impossible due to pure inertia, no matter how inferior and silly our
outdated measurement system is compared to the metric system and what
all the other smart people of the world have adopted. It's a good
thing though that the OS and most of the web has adopted the single
space rule and effectively ignores double spaces, so we really won't
have to worry about it too much.

Our current flavor of technology has actually been a massive step
backwards with regard to legibility, but that does not and never will
negate the fact that typography rules themselves are actually quite
solid. Once the technology catches back up, everything will get right
back on track.

Please see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_stop#Spacing_after_full_stop
(This isn't the best explanation, and a good example of why Wikipedia
is an imperfect medium, but it's good enough for this discussion)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typeface#Digital_type
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typeface#Proportion

I could discuss this topic for years. I spent so much time on it in
my career... So if I'm boring anyone, my apologies. (Next you should
ask me about rivers and type color and how early DTP programs like
Aldus PageMaker and Quark XPress basically ruined good typography in
the magazine and publishing industry for years until InDesign and
more sophisticated type engines came along and brought proper control
of it back to the publishing world. Then you'll truly see the depths
of my type geekery.)

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

10 Jan 2008 - 9:39am
bmeunier
2007

>
> I could discuss this topic for years. I spent so much time on it in
> my career... So if I'm boring anyone, my apologies.
>

You're not boring Andrei... we have and will continue to learn from you and
from the community.

Benoît Meunier

10 Jan 2008 - 1:05pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 10, 2008, at 12:59 AM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> (Next you should
> ask me about rivers and type color and how early DTP programs like
> Aldus PageMaker and Quark XPress basically ruined good typography in
> the magazine and publishing industry for years until InDesign and
> more sophisticated type engines came along and brought proper control
> of it back to the publishing world. Then you'll truly see the depths
> of my type geekery.)

I got a few emails asking me for info on this. Here's a few articles
with information that's a good start for people interested:

http://designer-info.com/DTP/text_typography.htm
http://www.graphic-design.com/DTG/bergsland/new_typography.html

And for fun:
http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/danger-of-the-desktop

And a good place to start for people interested in the simple things:
http://www.markboulton.co.uk/journal/comments/
five_simple_steps_to_better_typography/
(Be sure to read the whole series)

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

10 Jan 2008 - 4:34pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Type is fascinating, both in its history and in the variety of its
creative implementations. I've worked in media (mostly print) since
I was 14 years old -- even longer if you count delivering newspapers
-- and now that my hair is thin and gray, I own dozens of books on
typography.

I'd like to see a system that could redesign typography "on the
fly" while still allowing end users on the Web the control they
should have over local presentation. There are issues that will have
to be addressed -- probably in the visual browsers or in the
operating systems themselves, but maybe elsewhere. I don't think you
can simply amend the UTF-8 specification to include new glyphs for
ligatures, for example. But maybe, in the long run, you can.

It's a brilliant and noble dream to enable more elegant typography
on the Web, but I'm having a hard time visualizing just how it would
be as practical as it would be beautiful. That could be a limitation
in my own design, eh?

Am I a typographic Luddite? I don't think so, because historically
typographers have always struggled to accommodate the limitations of
new media. Imagine the typographic sacrifices (and gains) made in the
transition from monastic scribes to the Gutenberg press, or in
transitioning Chinese and Japanese calligraphy to print. I think we
can count on something being lost in the translation to this new
medium, as well, and salvaging that "something" may be tough.

But, as I said, I'd like to see it! What's the next step necessary
to move from lamenting the problem of inelegant typography to
resolving it? I can't imagine any better candidates for that job
than a bunch of interaction designers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

10 Jan 2008 - 5:50pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

A great typography resource with a web focus is
http://webtypography.net/ .. lots of great analysis and information
about applying traditional typography practice to the web.

10 Jan 2008 - 7:01pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 10, 2008, at 1:34 PM, Jeff Seager wrote:

> I'd like to see a system that could redesign typography "on the
> fly" while still allowing end users on the Web the control they
> should have over local presentation. There are issues that will have
> to be addressed -- probably in the visual browsers or in the
> operating systems themselves, but maybe elsewhere. I don't think you
> can simply amend the UTF-8 specification to include new glyphs for
> ligatures, for example. But maybe, in the long run, you can.

The only real practical way to attack this problem is with the
upcoming product segment of eBooks, like Amazon's Kindle. But it
might only be worth doing once the screen or display resolution
reaches print resolution. To try and solve it sooner might actually
create more problems than it solves to be honest, unless discipline
was strictly adhered to not and let the core fundamentals of
typography be altered or countered due to temporary technological
limitations.

Further, the reason why you'd want to tackle it with eBooks and not
the web has in large part to due with a more controlled linear
environment to achieve the goal of user spec'd type. The web with the
browser has largely become a structured layout environment where
content is nonlinear. The amount of adjustment required to make type
both elegant and readable while still user controlled requires far
more adjustments than possible in a structured layout environment.
Structured layout requires a designer for a reason: not everyone is
built to do it or understand how to make it work elegantly given the
large number of variables and adjustments that have to be made with
every change. You can't just change the font size and expect to have
everything work based on rules with a different font size. It simply
doesn't work like that and never will.

> But, as I said, I'd like to see it! What's the next step necessary
> to move from lamenting the problem of inelegant typography to
> resolving it? I can't imagine any better candidates for that job
> than a bunch of interaction designers.

Sorry to be a wet noodle here, but there's no way "interaction"
designers are going to solve this problem unless they (as a field,
collectively or otherwise) take it upon themselves to learn type,
color and composition as a core competency. And to do so would force
the issue that they are more than just "interaction" designers and
we're back to discussing job titles yet again.

Not a problem for me since I've never considered myself an
interaction designer. I've always been an interface designer, someone
who has to know graphic design, information design *and* interaction
design to get the job done. 8^)

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

11 Jan 2008 - 2:20am
White, Jeff
2007

What does this thread have to do with interaction design?

I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm really interested in what the list
has to say about this question.

Jeff

11 Jan 2008 - 3:10am
Jeff Howard
2004

There are at least five different conversations in this thread. Which
ones are you challenging?

1) Are there any studies about why Arial is used for web apps more
than Verdana?

2) Are studies a valid approach to making typographic decisions?

3) Should one space or two follow a period?

4) In what ways does the digitial medium constrain our approach to
typography?

5) What do the previous four topics have to do with interaction
design?

If you care about the broader community's answer to the fifth
question, I'd recommend starting a new thread. This one, certainly
this late in the thread, will be all but invisible to people who
don't happen to care about font snobbery.

// jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

11 Jan 2008 - 7:12am
White, Jeff
2007

:-)

I wasn't really challenging any of them, and should have replaced 'the
list' with 'folks'.

Jeff

11 Jan 2008 - 2:47pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 10, 2008, at 11:20 PM, Jeff White wrote:

> What does this thread have to do with interaction design?
>
> I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm really interested in what the list
> has to say about this question.

You first!

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

11 Jan 2008 - 2:51pm
White, Jeff
2007

No way! :-)

On Jan 11, 2008 2:47 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk
<andrei at involutionstudios.com> wrote:

>
> You first!
>

11 Jan 2008 - 3:16pm
M S
2006

> What does this thread have to do with interaction design?
In my opinion main goal of interaction design is to provide the best
user experience possible.
And typography is one of important components in that case.

--
Maxim

11 Jan 2008 - 3:26pm
White, Jeff
2007

Completely agree about typography being crucial to user experience.
But IxD is a branch of UX design. I was wondering about various
opinions on how typography relates specifically to IxD...

Jeff

On Jan 11, 2008 3:16 PM, Maxim Soloviev <maxim at deast.info> wrote:
> > What does this thread have to do with interaction design?
> In my opinion main goal of interaction design is to provide the best
> user experience possible.
> And typography is one of important components in that case.
>
> --
> Maxim
>

11 Jan 2008 - 4:11pm
M S
2006

For me IxD consists of 2 parts -- dynamic (interaction) & static
(visual appearance). So typography deals with visual
appearance/representation & readability (usability of text in some
cases).

However there are so many different disciplines (from cognitive
psychology to graphical design) and principles involved, so it's hard
for me to build "model" that will satisfy all needs and answer all
questions.

--
Maxim

11 Jan 2008 - 2:26pm
Angel Marquez
2008
12 Jan 2008 - 10:18am
Jeff Seager
2007

It probably is a reach to call typography an element of interaction
design in the strictest sense, Jeff, but in the broad sense I think
that interaction design has to consider any element that impacts
understanding and confidence in a design interface.

I agree with Maxim ...

"typography deals with visual appearance/representation &
readability (usability of text in some cases)"

... and I consider the user's cognitive processes as an essential
key to any interaction. I accept other interpretations as well, and I
appreciate hearing them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

15 Jan 2008 - 12:44am
cfmdesigns
2004

On Jan 10, 2008, at 12:59 AM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> Adding extra spaces after periods is really a very bad habit formed
> when the large majority of corporate communication was ruled by
> technology that could only use monospaced fonts -- that is of course
> the typewriter, and the typewriter lasted a few generations, so it
> had plenty of time to entrench itself. Further, it's a habit that
> will wind up hurting you once the technology gets even better and
> renders type with even more sophistication, which is not that far off
> on the horizon quite frankly.

I don't disagree that it's a habit that will be bad once the
technology works right, and that it will be hard to break.

But if I had seen even one hint of that technology showing its face
into the mainstream in the past nearly two decades that I've dealt
with DTP apps, I would consider amending my habits now. But it always
seems to stay just over that mythical horizon. So I continue to
overdo in order to not underdo, having no faith that a magical fix
will every arrive.

-- Jim Drew
cfmdesigns at earthlink.net

15 Jan 2008 - 2:38am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 14, 2008, at 9:44 PM, Jim Drew wrote:

> But if I had seen even one hint of that technology showing its face
> into the mainstream in the past nearly two decades that I've dealt
> with DTP apps, I would consider amending my habits now. But it always
> seems to stay just over that mythical horizon. So I continue to
> overdo in order to not underdo, having no faith that a magical fix
> will every arrive.

Is that kind of like waiting to buy a hybrid until all cars work on
hydrogen?

Further, the "mainstream" cases are plenty fine with single spacing.
And if you need proof of the rule "showing its face" then the fact
web browsers already force single spacing regardless (because extra
spacing is ignored in HTML markup) means it's a pointless habit to
continue to propagate if you do any work in the mainstream of
technology these days. The only "mainstream" case one could make is
using Microsoft Word, and even then, when documents are printed
double spacing is horrendous given the high resolution of printed
output.

Sorry... I'm not buying your particular line of logic.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

15 Jan 2008 - 3:44am
Itamar Medeiros
2006

A few of my favorite references on typography:

-The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web
http://webtypography.net/
Based of the famous book by Robert Bringhurst.

-I Love Typography
http://ilovetypography.com/
According to its own author: "articles on typography are rather
bland and, although informative, do little to elicit feelings of
wow!"

-TypeTester
http://typetester.maratz.com/
The Typetester is an online application for comparison of the fonts
for the screen.

-A Comparison of Popular Online Fonts: Which Size and Type is Best?
http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/41/onlinetext.htm
An old study in which is examined some of the most commonly used
fonts for differences in reading effectiveness, reading time,
perceptions of font legibility, font attractiveness, and general
preference.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24248

31 Jan 2008 - 3:12am
cfmdesigns
2004

On Jan 14, 2008, at 11:38 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Jan 14, 2008, at 9:44 PM, Jim Drew wrote:
>
>> But if I had seen even one hint of that technology showing its face
>> into the mainstream in the past nearly two decades that I've dealt
>> with DTP apps, I would consider amending my habits now. But it
>> always
>> seems to stay just over that mythical horizon. So I continue to
>> overdo in order to not underdo, having no faith that a magical fix
>> will every arrive.
>
> Is that kind of like waiting to buy a hybrid until all cars work on
> hydrogen?

It might be like waiting to buy a hybrid until they are cost
effective. At first, and for a long time, they are way more expensive
to buy than traditional vehicles and the advantage is mythical feel-
good stuff -- "It's the right thing to do" -- rather than anything
concrete or monetary.

Nah, that's no good. It's like being Vegan: "Tofu tastes *way* better
than meat!"

(Apologies to vegans out there. I've been reading Anthony Bourdain's
"The Cook's Tour" lately.)

> Further, the "mainstream" cases are plenty fine with single spacing.
> And if you need proof of the rule "showing its face" then the fact
> web browsers already force single spacing regardless (because extra
> spacing is ignored in HTML markup) means it's a pointless habit to
> continue to propagate if you do any work in the mainstream of
> technology these days.

Do browsers compress multiple spaces into one because they are trying
to do the right thing, typographically, between sentences? Or do they
do it because of algorithmic reasons, the assumption that multiple
spaces of any number should compress to one. Don't try to convince me
that browsers are being wise when they are being dumb, taking the
simplest path to a solution that works right for the broadest number
of cases.

> Sorry... I'm not buying your particular line of logic.

When you're solidly bought into to opposite camp, I wouldn't expect
you to.

-- Jim Drew
cfmdesigns at earthlink.net

30 Jul 2010 - 2:08pm
Anonymous

In 1997, Microsoft commissioned a set of fonts for both Mac and Windows. Matthew Carter’s Verdana and Georgia, designed for on-screen legibility. These two faces are currently the best sanserif and serif choices for readable extended web type.

Fonts for print are vector based and not optimized for the the grid structure of tiny light bulbs that make up a screen.

Use Verdana instead of Arial and Georgia instead of Times. Your users will thank you for it.

A good article and background info can be found elsewhere.

30 Jul 2010 - 5:05pm
Michael Li
2010

Thanks for the sharing. Personally I prefer Cambria as serif and Calibri as sanserif, don't know how these two fonts stack up with Georgia and Verdana?

1 Aug 2010 - 12:05pm
mcaskey
2008

I like how Calibri and Cambria look on a screen, but they aren't 100% distributed, so you have to use some backup fonts, unless you're including the font with your software. The problem with using these for the web (where most of my design happens these days), is that these two fonts are scaled down, and you have to compensate with a larger font-size, so when they aren't available your backup font comes up huge.

On Aug 1, 2010, at 3:03 AM, Michael Li wrote:

> Thanks for the sharing. Personally I prefer Cambria as serif and Calibri as sanserif, don't know how these two fonts stack up with Georgia and Verdana? > >

1 Aug 2010 - 8:18am
penguinstorm
2005
Helvetica. Arial is an abomination. I assume you're discussion Verdana in an on screen context. It was specifically designed for that, and not print. I've never had a use thank me for a choice of typeface.
1 Aug 2010 - 12:05pm
adleracm
2010

> Helvetica. Arial is an abomination. check out Bruno Maag on Helvetica http://vimeo.com/13176939

interesting discussion on the arial, helvetica, ...

funny to compare this with the film Helvetica

cheers

Adler

Adler Looks Jorge 蔡鷹達 Interaction Designer, Hong Kong

"Absence of rules is a rule that depends on common sense."  Artur da Távola

> (((Pleas

1 Aug 2010 - 8:19pm
penguinstorm
2005

Well certainly the "wide spread use of Helvetica" isn't an inherently good thing. I don't fall into the "Helvetica is the perfect font" camp (though I do own a copy of the movie, and saw it in theatres.)

Compared to Arial though? Seriously? Pretty much anything looks better than Arial. Well, maybe not Comic Sans...

Calling Arial "not a copy of Helvetica" as Bruno does is a bit disingenuous. It sort of depends on how you define a "copy" I suppose.

Nice talk. Thanks for the link.

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