Reading Letters: Designing for Legibility

This book will not only help type designers create high-legibility typefaces, but also help graphic designers determine the optimal typeface for a given project. Few of us will appreciate whether the typeface we read is legible, but we quickly notice if it is not.

Creating type for optimal legibility is therefore an ungrateful task, since readers only register your failures. For instance, typefaces presented under difficult reading conditions, such as small font sizes in low-quality newspaper print, or street and building signs viewed from afar, need to be created in specific ways to function optimally.

To understand the topic in depth, two very different areas of expertise have been consulted. One area is that of punch cutters and designers whose professional experience confers upon them useful knowledge that can help us better understand the various aspects of the matter; the other is that of academic reading research, a field in which a significant amount of relevant scientific studies have been carried out over the years.

The outcome of this research has yet to be made widely available to designers. Consequently, many designers make assumptions without really knowing whether they are right or wrong.

Reading Letters is a serious and engaging compilation of knowledge from the design and scientific communities, supplemented by visual examples of legibility. A must-have for type designers and graphic designers.

Quotation from published reviews

“This book provides much useful information for design students leaning to use typography appropriately, perhaps not a first course but a second. It also serves novice type designers with its various perspectives. Besides this, the book is beautifully designed with telling visual demonstrations and this is always important when delivering information to designers.” Sharon Poggenpohl in Visible Language, 2012, vol. 46(3)

“Rather than infallible recipes, the book offers a series of considerations and assessments, helped by academic resources and practical examples, all carefully illustrated. Big names (Gerard Unger, Matthew Carter) sit alongside little-known studies such as Frank E. Blokland’s research on ‘patternisation’ of type design.” Sébastien Morlighem, Eye, 2012, vol. 84.

Beier, S. (2012) Reading Letters: designing for legibility, BIS Publishers, 1-190.

For more please see:
Type and its legibility: 7 Questions for Sofie Beier