How to Determine the Legibility of a Typeface?

Saurabh Tiwary | 21st March 2017

A well readable text is the need of every design, be it Mobile UI/UX or the website interface design. Even Typography plays a vital role in the logo design and so is the importance of typeface in the design.

The clarity in the Typography is usually determined by legibility and readability. Legibility can be called as a function of the typeface design. Precisely, it is an informal measurement of how likely one typeface is to be distinguished among several types. 

On the other hand, Readability is associated with how the typeface is being used. Readability is basically related to typography. On a quick note, it is a measure of how easily words, phrases, and text forms can be read.


Legibility is the Backbone

It is important to note that not all the typefaces should be evaluated on the grounds of legibility. A number of typeface designs are created for the purpose of delivering a typographic statement, or in some cases to provide a particular feel during graphic communication.

However, some of the typefaces are specifically designed to achieve specific goals. In some cases, typography suffers on the legibility scale as a result of the efforts put in to achieve uniqueness.

Important Read: A Major Role Of Kerning In Typography

Factors that Determine The Legibility of Typeface

The prime concern is that what makes a typeface legible? It is a well-known fact that most of the legible typefaces are “transparent”. This means that they don’t call seek attention to themselves. Moreover, such legible typefaces contain big features and posses restrained design attributes.

Although it might seem to be a proclaimed typographic fact, but it’s not. Talking about the unique features, we need to focus on certain things such as large, open counters, sufficient lowercase x-heights, and shapes that are easily recognizable. Even the most legible typefaces also seem to be restrained. They do not look excessively light or bold, and the weight differences within the character strokes are subtle.

The 95% of the text that we read are lowercase, hence, typefaces with comparatively larger letter proportions usually result in a more legible typeface.
Individual letter shapes also influence the legibility of the types. While it has always been arguable whether sans serifs are more readable than serif fonts. This is because their letter shapes are slightly simpler and hence, proven to be more legible than the serif family.


Little Serifs and Light Weights

Another drawback associated with the serif typefaces is that the legibility of individual letters often suffers when serifs possess exaggerated shapes. Long serifs which are exceptionally heavy comprising of unusual shapes all detract from legibility. However, ideal serifs are slightly shorter and bracketed.

So, we can conclude that lighter typefaces can be more legible than heavier weights of type. They might allow full, open counters and unchanged character shapes. Studies also reveal that the best suited character stroke thickness for text typefaces is somewhat around 18% of the x-height. Typefaces similar to Albertina Regular and ITC Officina Sans Book fall into these general categories.

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Saurabh Tiwary

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