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Bigelow, ; in Rubinstein,p What ever their origin, serifs have been around for so long that perceived legibility is very likely to have been affected by familiarity — readers tend to rate as more legible the typefaces they are most used to Tinker, ; Zachrisson, Sans serif are better on the web Although studies of screen reading show no difference between reading from screen and from paper Dillon, ; Bernard,there could be some validity to this argument.
Many web professionals such as graphic designers claim that this relatively low resolution cannot render effectively enough the fine finishing strokes of serif typefaces, and that sans serif typefaces lend themselves more naturally to being digitised, and come out cleaner and thus more legible.
Sans serif is better at small sizes. Sans serif fonts survive reproduction and smearing because of their simple forms Some research has shown that serifs may actually become visual noise at very small sizes, detracting from the main body shape of the letter form Morris, et al.
However, this has not been confirmed in tests of continuous reading Poulton, Other factors such as stroke thickness, counter size and x-height are likely to have a far greater effect in preserving the overall identity of a letter form whether it be through smearing or size reduction Poulton, ; Reynolds, Sans serif is better for children learning to read Books produced for children are often printed with sans serif text as teachers claim that the simplicity of the letter shapes makes them more recognisable Coghill,Walker, But studies with child participants have found no difference in their ability to read either style of typeface.
Coghill, ; Zachrisson,Walker, 3. It is of course possible that serifs or the lack of them have an effect on legibility, but it is very likely that they are so peripheral to the reading process that this effect is not even worth measuring Lund, Indeed, a greater difference in legibility can easily be found within members of the same type family than between a serif and a sans serif typeface.
Tinker,Zachrisson, There are also other factors such as x-height, counter size, letter spacing and stroke width which are more significant for legibility than the presence or absence of serifs.
Poulton, ; Reynolds, Finally, we should accept that most reasonably designed typefaces in mainstream use will be equally legible, and that it makes much more sense to argue in favour of serif or sans serif typefaces on aesthetic grounds than on the question of legibility.
Bernard, ; Tinker, 4. Student preferences in typography. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology18 2 Comment about this source: A typical study on the aesthetic quality of fonts — these types of studies are only useful for a short time before fashion or technology changes the whims of readers.
That said, they do need to be done from time to time if what I say in the conclusion is true. So, what size and type of font should I use on my website? Which font do children prefer to read online?
Determining the best online font for older adults. A Comparison of Popular Online Fonts: Which is Best and When? A collection of well thought out, up to date studies from Bernard et al concentrating on fonts for the web, though it is not clear if they have been published in a peer-reviewed periodical.
Journal of Design Communication, No. Still, implies correctly that x-height, colour contrast, counter size and other factors are more significant for legibility than the presence or absence of serifs, and that the combination of all factors is the most important thing.
A psychological study of typography. Can children read familiar words in unfamiliar type? Information Design Journal 1 4Comment about this source: Very interesting study which implies that because young children have not had the time or the ability to become accustomed to certain fonts, this confounding factor can be eliminated from the experiment.
Coghill finds that there is no significant difference between serif and sans serif fonts although some methodological issues are worrying. Reading from paper versus screens:Sample Dissertation / Thesis Example.
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Lawrence F. Locke is Professor Emeritus of Education and Physical Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. A native of Connecticut, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Springfield College and a Ph.D.
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