Thursday, September 5, 2013

Type and You

I recently came across an interesting post by Dan Mall, the founder of Superfriendly, in the Adobe Typekit blog. It relates to logos and readability, and little hidden tricks that make you go "ahhhh!" For example, the first logo in point is the FedEx logo.
With a seemingly very simple manipulation of text, you get that rewarding a-ha moment when you notice the arrow that forms between the "E" and the "x."

The post goes on to talk about the overall readability of type and how your brain and eyeballs work together to translate text. Mall uses a Volcan Eksi logo to show how the tops of letterforms are more easily recognized than the lower half of the letterforms.

Here is the logo:
The point made is that the pause symbol still reads as a "u" even though the bottom of the letterform is not visible.

Here is copy that shows the top and bottom halves of type:

Naturally, your eyes find it easier to read and interpret type by looking at the top half. 

The point here is that legibility of logo type is dependent upon the way in which the type is modified. Logos that play with the type around the baseline are generally more successful than those that alter the top. 

Here are some examples of logos that alter the bottom of type:
Pretty legible, I'd say.

Mall also talks about the readability of all caps versus lowercase. The upper half trick does not work as well on caps as it does on lowercase because the caps make rigid blocks that are harsh on the eyes. Proof of this is visible in the following passage which I am sure everyone has seen:
 "Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe." 
This is still crazy to me that your mind can understand such mumbo jumbo, but the fact of it is is that our minds read not only letters, but also the shapes of words. Your brain sees familiar letterforms in between certain letters and automatically recognizes the letters as the original word.

I also just really dig the fact that our brains and eyes are so picky that when type is set in all bold/italic/all caps, it's all like "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME READ THIS."

Fun experiment that almost ruined my life once:
Try to read a 10-page article set in an all bold serif font and then check your text messages. You will think the typeface on your phone has changed and you will lose your mind very soon after.

Link to original article.

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