I doubt that many would argue that legibility is unimportant, but it's not
the only important thing and may not always be the _most_ important thing.
Furthermore, there are other factors than typeface choice that affect
legibility. (Try reading a book set in Quadraat printed in green on blue,
As long as designers use common sense and follow reasonable guidelines when
setting type, most people will have no difficulty reading the type they set,
even if they have chosen a typeface that is sub-optimal.
[Computer screens are very sub-optimal for reading, and yet people are able
read your numerous posts without complaint (at least about their
It's quite true that many popular typefaces are less than ideal when it
comes to legibility, but if they are popular it follows that they must be
legible enough for the uses to which they are put. If legibility were the
most important factor in choosing typefaces, type offerings from foundries
would look very different.
Absolutism is not the only alternative to relativism. There is also
> From: Hrant H Papazian <[log in to unmask]>
> From: Robin Kinross
>> The debate about legibility of the early 1990s in "Emigre", "Eye",
>> and elsewhere, was a reflection of this. People said "there is no
>> such thing as legibility -- reading is different for everyone".
> Wow, the single best typographic example of
> how Absolute Relativism falls on its face.
> Familarity is indeed a factor, but so is human physiology.
> For example, the retina has certain characteristics which
> affect our reading "affinities". And although comprehensive
> empirical evidence does not exist, this should not prevent
> us from using deduction and good judgment to arrive at some
> conclusions that we can apply confidently.
> And this is not something new: the best typographers and
> type designers* have been doing this for ages. When Javal
> made his seminal discoveries (around a hundred years ago),
> type people not only paid attention, they eagerly applied
> the findings to improve their work. These days there is
> a very strong trend among designers* to simply look the
> other way - and I personally can't stand it.
> Irrespective of familarity, FF Extra is not as
> legible (nor as readable) as Quadraat. Period.
> * See Unger's interview in the most recent Eye magazine.
> ** I don't know if this is intersting to everybody, but I can't
> help but wonder: why do otherwise intelligent people "escape"
> to relativism? Is it because type design has now acquired the
> trappings of Art, where thoughtful analysis is shunned?