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The Serif Readability Myth

Kas Thompson on typography…

I’ve been involved in publishing all my life, and like many others I’ve always accepted as axiomatic the notion that typefaces with serifs (such as Times-Roman) are, in general, are more readable than non-serif typefaces (e.g., Helvetica). It never occurred to me that there was any doubt about the matter. Were the monks who invented serifs and other text ornamentations merely engaging in idle doodling? Weren’t they consciously intending to increase the legibility of the important documents they were transcribing?

It turns out that, as with so many of the things we “know” are right, the idea that serif typefaces are more readable than non-serif typefaces simply isn’t supported by the evidence.

I personally prefer serifs for reading, but that may simply be because I read so many books, and those are typically set in a serif typeface.

Interesting stuff, though. Go read the whole thing.


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Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at chris@gomakethings.com or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

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