Measuring Font Legibility

If you think of fonts as a bit of design esoterica, consider this New York Times article on the new Clearview typeface that will appear on all new highway road signs here in the United States:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Am I first!?

Great. Now all they need to do is make the lines on the road so they’re visible at night in the rain, and I’ll be a much happier driver. :slight_smile:

For those of you that are interested in the overglow, this page has an overglow simulation image of the E-modified, Series D, and Clearview 5-W fonts:

Direct link to the image:

You can get the font here:

Unless I have misread it, how does the Wichita legibility study of new fonts on Windows have anything to do with your opinion that Microsoft’s strategy is “smarter” than Apple’s regarding font rendering tech? If there was experimental data that showed that people reading the same source material in the same fonts were faster on Windows than on OS X, that would be relevant to support your opinion. It is obvious you are into typography and you think Windows does it better, but unless you have been running an OS blind font rendering “taste test”, it’s still only opinion no matter how many studies compare Windows fonts readibility to other Windows fonts readability.

Dave Murdock: haven’t you figured out that Jeff Atwood is a Windows nut? he relies on a convicted monopolist to provide poorly constructed technologies to make a livelihood (which, tangentially, is difficult to discern if he actually has one seeing as though he’s always updating this place). relying on Jeff for OS agnostic tests is wishful thinking at best

p.s. same friggin’ captcha: orange

This post reminds me about something I keep forgetting to mention - Have you checked out your site in Firefox recently? The font rendering is a bit hazy; I thought maybe you were developing on a Mac for a little while.

It wasn’t until I saw how much better it looks in IE7 that I realized that you may not test it in FF.

Anyways, nothing terribly constructive to say, just whining about font rendering :wink:

Leave it to a Mac fan to take a sentences that begins “That’s why I think…” and get all uptight over it and call someone a nut.

I personally liked the article, and I thought the rendering issue was spelled out just fine: Jeff believes Mac leans toward staying true to the font face at the expense of some bluriness, whereas he believes Windows leans more toward sharper boundaries to prevent blur. Since blur and readability is what this article was about, seems like a similar subject, and seems like Windows takes a similar approach to these sign engineers.

Geez people are uptight. It’s easy enough to choose NOT to read the article.

I’m a web designer who switched to Mac in October 2006. There were plenty of reasons in my mind not to switch, one of which was the worry that I would miss Windows XP’s Clear Type font rendering and find OS X’s font rendering fuzzy and unreadable.

As it happens, I much prefer the OS X type rendering engine. Often times with ClearType on XP, I would see a “sparkley” halo around anti-aliased text (especially white text on colored backgrounds).

The biggest readability advantage OS X has its collection of pre-installed, high quality, properly hinted typefaces. All the ClearType rendering in the world won’t save the mostly bad typefaces that Windows comes with. Granted, the new Vista fonts are nice, but at body copy (12px) sizes they still seem somehow off. It’s like the Windows character grid is somehow wrong.

Anyway, if you love Windows or develop software for the Microsoft stack, that’s great, do whatever is best for your own productivity. If you’re looking for an alternative that comes with pretty good pre-installed software and beautiful hardware (that isn’t covered with stickers for Intel) then I heartily recommend Apple computers.

“made-up names like Dorset”

… what?

@Porges: “Made-up” here means “not taken from nearby cities and towns”.

It wasn’t until I saw how much better it looks in IE7 that I realized that you may not test it in FF.

Believe me, I use FireFox, and the site looks identical. When people make this comment it’s usually because they have ClearType turned off. Note that IE7 FORCES ClearType on.

The stylesheet for this website specifies Colibri, then Tahoma. Colibri only looks correct with ClearType on. So if you have…

  1. The Colibri typeface installed (eg, you run Vista or have installed Office 2007)

  2. ClearType turned OFF

you’ll experience this effect…

Hey Jeff, I’m already packing Scott Hanselman’s fonts for my Visual Studio and people always look at my screen a little funny but I’m not the one complaining about eye fatigue :slight_smile:

But really, I’ll take this one step further here… fellow programmers, learn to format a fricken document and pick fonts that make sense and learn to indent. For two years I was the youngest guy in the office and bI/b had to teach everyone else the difference between serif and sans-serif fonts. I had to show people how to set up and use headers and different types of body text when building a document.

Pretty much all programmers are required to create documentation at some point in their career; so we should learn to build a document with appropriate page breaks (instead of 10 Enters) and headers that “stay together” with their text and documents that “build their own” TOC b/c you actually built the thing with headers. a href=""You talked about building a computer being an important part of a developer’s long-term skill set/a. I’d like the wager my (less than important) opinion that learning to use a Word Processor (well) is on that level.

I’ve seen the first draft of a government document written in Comic font with all of the above errors and more: no page numbers on each page, no document name on the page header, no print time, etc. He held off on creating the Table of Contents b/c he didn’t want the pages to change until he was done with it.

So I love reading this stuff, I just wish more programmers had a clue about this stuff!

Informative article on font legibility for highway safety improvement.

But the abrupt jump to Windows vs Mac font rendering is very strange. It’s a different field of application, serving different needs. The mention of Windows vs Mac is even less relevant, when you consider that - by design - the font (ClearviewHWY font) is less dependent on rendering approach.

I feel ashamed to be interested in your blog… I think I’m becoming a full-fledged programmer :frowning:

Sweet blog though! :smiley:

recent commentors believe that Jeff is comparing apples to oranges and are taking his words out of context. The blog’s title has the word LEGIBILITY, and that’s what he’s comparing. His blog post on rendering was a couple of posts ago.

He even states that “signage design has many parallels to modern GUI design in computer science”

Jeff is stating another reason why microsoft’s font rendering is more pleasing to him and is doing a simple comparison using like characteristics.

You’re a delight, Jeff. I complained about your font choice when you first switched over to the ClearType camp because it was unreadable to people on cheap commodity monitors and you proclaimed it was for the sake of the FUTURE. Now you finish with a link to another post where where you criticize Apple for having the very same philosophy regarding their font rendering strategy.

Regardless, although I’m not livid that you’d choose an MS design strategy over Apple’s, the argument you gave seems to contradict your conclusion. I don’t own a Mac. I only use Windows. But hear me out.

If readability is most important (which I agree it is), then wouldn’t a strategy that preserved the designer’s intentions work better? With this tactic, the burden is shifted entirely over to the designer, so readability can be improved easily by using a better font.

MS’s strategy requires that you increase usability for the few at the expense of those who don’t keep up with the newest technology. The designer has to do a balancing act based on what he wants the font to look like vs. what the technology decides the font will look like. But the real kicker is that the font will probably end up looking like crap if the technology changes abruptly. These changes increase the usability for a certain set of users at the expense of everybody else. A system like that is going to discourage improvements in usability in general because most designers won’t want to alienate a large number of users to improve the experience for a few. You may be an exception, with your font that’s unreadable with ClearType turned off, but most are not so headstrong.

This is the meat of Jobs’ complaint about MS having no style. MS’s strategy of pragmatism over well-defined design philosophy creates systems where designers are locked into mediocrity, and Apple’s no-compromises policy on design gives them a huge advantage. Admittedly, it’s this same philosophy that keeps their costs prohibitively high, ensuring MS remains the market leader, but let’s acknowledge MS’s design choices for what they are: ultimately BAD for usability.

Mac’s font rendering sucks! Based on using safari browser, it sucks! Linux and Windows are great.

My 10 year old ViewSonic 17" flat CRT is still better at fonts then my brand new ViewSonic 17" flat LCD. Every test I’ve seen comparing CRT/LCD at text concludes CRT does better. It does. Not that this LCD is bad; it’s better than the 15 year old NEC CRT they gave. But it’s not better than a decent CRT. Just takes up less room.