i was going to stay out of this discussion, not being a trained
designer. but after seeing karyn popham's comment about sans serif
typefaces, i had to share my most outstanding success.
*Sans-serif typefaces that do not clearly distinguish ell, cap eye, and
numeral one are a nightmare. My Random House unabridged dictionary uses one
for entry words; as a result, one cannot tell if some words are spelled LLI
or LII or LIL--and all three are possible. Yes, there are differences in
stroke width, but I shouldn't be having to compare a word to words whose
spelling I know in order to decode what the letters are. And in this era
or URLs and @dresses, context may give you no clue.
she failed to mention that cap oh and zero can also be a problem.
my organization annually publishes a membership list. in order to
qualify for preferential postage rates, the weight of the volume,
packed for shipping, must be under 1 pound. given the number of
members and the amount of information to be included, this has been
a borderline situation for quite a few years.
after running out of the other obvious tactics -- thinner paper,
decreasing type size, decreasing margins -- the most promising
approach remaining was to find a new font. for addresses, including
e-mail, an ordinary sans serif is lethal. however, the fonts used
for directories -- phone books and the like -- have been designed
to avoid such ambiguities.
we finally obtained bell centennial (designed by matthew carter for
a commission by at&t on their 100th anniversary). the result is a
spectacular improvement over the previous attempts using something
home-grown. the main listings, even at a final size of something
less than 5 point, can be read clearly, unlikely though that may
if anyone ever wants an example of how the design of a typeface
can affect the utility of this kind of reference, i've got some
really good ones.
-- barbara beeton