16 September 2010

Myths of beautiful text

Ian Millington has suggestions about making text look good. He’s talking about text on the web, but there is some material relevant to posters.

Some claims are supported more by tradition than anything else, but this is often the case with text. For instance, Millington, in agreement with many other typographers, claims:

First-language English readers recognize words by their shape(.)

Kevin Larson lays this claim to waste in one of the most epic articles I have ever read on the science of reading, complete with a lengthy reference list of peer-reviewed research articles.

Word shape is no longer a viable model of word recognition. The bulk of scientific evidence says that we recognize a word’s component letters, then use that visual information to recognize a word.

I also think Millington is too hard on sans serif fonts, geometric fonts, and white paper. (And, as a neurobiologist, I also think that he overuses the term “hardwired” for the brain.) But lots of good ideas nevertheless.

Hat tip to Chris Atherton, WildWinter, Jan Schultnik, and Daniel Tenner.

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