Readability and legibility are also often confused. Readability is most often and more properly used to describe the ease with which written language is read and understood – it concerns the difficulty of the language itself, not its appearance. In contrast, legibility describes how easily or comfortably a typeset text can be read. It is not connected with content or language, but rather with the size and appearance of the printed or displayed text.
Studies of legibility have examined a wide range of factors including type size, type design (for example, comparing serif vs sans serif type, italic type vs roman type), line length, line spacing, colour contrast, the design of right-hand edge (for example, justification (straight right hand edge) vs ranged left, and whether hyphenated). Legibility research was published from the late nineteenth century on, but the overall finding has been that the reading process is remarkably robust, and that significant differences are hard to find.
What's even harder to find is how to use seriffed vs sans serif type and which combination over which is best (Serifs are the small cross-strokes at the end of letters in fonts such as Times; sans serif fonts, such as Arial, lack these cross strokes). I have to admit, I'm a fonts addict. I have over 4000 hand-picked fonts that I use for graphic design work and sometimes it could be daunting to choose the right mix of typfaces for a given project.
That is where type designer and lecturer Alessandro Segalini from Izmir University comes in. His excellent PDF cheat sheet on Mixing Typefaces can help you decide on which combination of typefaces to use. In this sheet, there are 22 typefaces that are cross-referenced with each other, and each combination is given a number to indicate their degree of incompatibility. These are:
1. Combine at will
2. Handle with caution
3. Should be avoided
Alessandro also adds a note at the end of his sheet noting that "there are no typographic absolute. There are, more than likely, several application and circumstances that would render two normally mixable just about as compatible as oil and water. Conversely, there are surely situations that would enable normally incompatible typefaces to be the best of friends."
Found his site via Inspiration Bit - both of which provide great resources and inspiration for type enthusiasts:
- Typographic Design Courses
- Typefaces With Turkish Influence
- Exceptional Typography Resources
- Most Effective Type Combinations
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