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The Many Facets of Fonts

By Judy Vorfeld

Did you know that most typ­ists use serif fonts (like Times Roman & Times New Roman) for text? Or that this type of font is designed so the reader’s eye moves smoothly from let­ter to let­ter? Yep. The lit­tle squig­gles you see on ser­ifs are part of that ease-of-reading process.

Traditionally, typ­ists use sans serif fonts (with­out squig­gles) more often for head­ings, account­ing, data entry, etc. These less dec­o­ra­tive fonts also com­ple­ment serif fonts when, for exam­ple, one is used for body text and the other for headings.

Today’s home and office (ink jet & laser) print­ers usu­ally oper­ate at a min­i­mum of 300dpi (dots per inch). At 300dpi and higher, both serif and sans serif fonts are read­able, but on the Internet…

Most screen res­o­lu­tions are far from per­fect for view­ing. Web typog­ra­phy experts often sug­gest that Web design­ers offer the best read­abil­ity by using sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana. This is chang­ing for the bet­ter, but slowly. Most users will not replace their cur­rent mon­i­tors sim­ply because bet­ter res­o­lu­tion is avail­able. Designers may be the biggest exception.

TIP: All fonts are not cre­ated equal. Verdana, an attrac­tive sans serif font cre­ated for the Web, is slightly larger than Arial. If space on a page or in a head­ing is impor­tant, you may want to use Arial.

Incidentally, the text on a user’s screen is almost always con­trolled by the fonts the user has on his/her sys­tem (hard drive). Some users, for var­i­ous rea­sons, con­trol the spe­cific font and size their browser uses. Size is another, more dif­fi­cult issue. You may learn that you can’t please all the peo­ple all the time, but design issues like these are improv­ing and will con­tinue to do so!

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