From: Gunnar Swanson
> Although the "we read best what we read most"
> mantra is nonsense if taken to literal extreme,
I actually don't think it's "nonsense" even
at literal extremes - it does contain truth.
The problem with it is that it's misleading,
at *any* level. It tries to simplify reality
into something untrue. Maybe everything is
[necessarily] a simplification, but to me
this one crosses the line in a major way,
and almost immediately.
Considering it more carefully, I think that changing
a single word would actually makes it work really well:
replace "best" with "better". And maybe change "most"
to "more", but that's it. :-/
Unfortunately, the original is much
better at something else (see below)...
> it is no more nonsense than the
> previously-prevailing wisdom.
Which was what? If it was "some fonts are more readable
than others (even if we're not sure why)" then the old
stuff made 100% more sense than this hogwash.
Now, I admit, there was (and is) a lot of bull in the
"old" understanding as well (and maybe this relativist
reaction is partly a backlash, as you say). For example,
the view that serifs "guide" the eyes along a flow, even
100 years after Javal... Bejeezus.
> "People are willing to try to read stuff in some proportion to
> how familiar it seems and familiar stupidity is less distracting
> than unfamiliar stupidity" just isn't a catchy manifesto soundbite.
You've put your finger right on it. And maybe any
"mantra" that describes anything of value (anything
necessarily complex) in life cannot be so absolute.
It has to be loose, and hope that the "absorber" of
the mantra can read beyond the words.
But the question is, are we trying to promote ideas, or are
we trying to sell dishwashers? Maybe E P Earls should turn
it into a catchy jingle.
> the sort of reading you talk about in your article
> in -Graphic Design & Reading- doesn't seem to apply
> to the short snippets and interviews editorial format
> of that era of Emigre.
Certainly, it applies less. And I've realized over time that
there are two forms of reading. There's letter-wise reading, and
there's bouma reading (word, or actually word-segment), and they
combine to varying degrees in any given reading "event".
I think immersion has two requisites: "low-level" readability
(a factor of the type/typography/medium/etc.), and familiarity.
The "relativists" ignore the former, and maybe misunderstand
the dynamics of the latter:
Even though it's one of the things I'm less confident about,
I think that familiarity is established much quicker than many
people seem to think (and that's why it's so difficult to measure
readability), at least on the level of the individual (groups are
inherently more resistant to adaptation - like the way drops in
speed on freeways are due to the accumulation of individual
speed drops). So I think immersive reading possibly comes into
play very quickly - maybe only a few words into the text, but
only assuming good "inherent" readability - and that's my point.
For example, even single words on highway signs are often
read immersively (but I'm not very sure why... man, this
is a one complex beast).
> I suspect that the appeal of over-stated relativism is partially a
> reaction to the many statements of personal prejudice or arbitrary
> group preference that are put forth by "authorities" as Truth.
But who/where are these authorities? How can we react
against them when people consciously (?) ignore them?
X-Sybari-Space: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
From: Mark Simonson
> I doubt that many would argue that legibility is unimportant
True, but many people argue that legibility/readability
is "all in your head", ignoring the shape of the retina,
the [admittedly partial] empirical evidence, etc.
> it's not the only important thing
> there are other factors than typeface
> choice that affect legibility.
> 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.
Well, I'm with you on "common sense",
but "reasonable guidelines" is tricky.
More significantly: What if a designer wants to elevate
his work from "readable enough" to "highly readable"?
Especially in long material, that "sub-optimal" can
amount to a real impediment.
> if they are popular it follows that they must be
> legible enough for the uses to which they are put.
Yes, they are *legible* enough to bypass casual
layman complaint. But the reader cannot consiously
understand the [often] more important *readability*,
because this relies on a subconscious mechanism.
> Absolutism is not the only alternative
> to relativism. There is also pragmatism.