TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Mon Jan 22 00:23:12 EST 2018

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LUC DEVROYE


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Legible versus readable

John Hudson explained in 2002 at textmatters.com (link died): I would equate legibility with decipherability, i.e., a typeface is legible if one can easily identify and distinguish the different letters. Pretty much any text typeface worth the name can claim this basic legibility. Readability is considerably more complex, because the act of reading is not based on the decipherment of the shape of individual letters but recognition of their combination in wordshapes. This introduces elements of type design that go beyond the creation of umabiguous letter shapes: spacing, for example, and issues of horizontal and vertical stress and the rhythm they create in text, which may either work with or against the natural movement of the eye during reading. Steve Hoselitz gives these definitions:

  • Readability is concerned with ease and comfort in reading in a sustained fashion with our eyes moving in a series of short jerks as we traverse the lines left to right and back again; it is the test of text.
  • egibility is concerned with the speed with which we recognise individual letters or short compact groups of words when our eyes are wide open and not moving; it is the test of display.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html