Some academic studies on typeface readability.
This page gives a summary of some academic studies on typeface readability. It is related to my Typeface Readability page.
First, someone has done a much better job of this than I ever could: The Science of Typography by Ellen Lupton. As Ellen Lupton says, ‘Science leaves the designer more or less at sea in terms of font choice’. Quite so.
In addition to the studies identified by Ellen Lupton a number of academic studies have been undertaken on font readability and legibility over a range of reader age and abilities. These include:
Experiments with children aged 9–11 on font readability (see http://www.surl.org/usabilitynews/31/fontJR.asp)
|bizarre research from the University of Witchita||
There are a number of readability-related research papers from the Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University that can be found at http://www.surl.org/ usabilitynews/az.asp and scroll down to ‘Font Type/Size’. They’re all a bit kind of weak-bridge in nature, like when you’re driving along and you see a sign that says, Weak Bridge, and you think, I wonder what I’m supposed to do with that information.
Legibility and Readability of Small Print (www.psych.ucalgary.ca/PACE/VA-Lab/gkconnol/Thesis.html)
A thorough and detailed paper, looking at the legibility and readability of small print.
Summary of the conclusions of this research (with my comments in  brackets):
|University of Calgary young see better than old & serif fonts better on small print||
Typography for Children ( http://www.kidstype.org/The project/Testing typography/Typefaces/typefaces.html)
Thorough research from the University of Reading (ie city of Reading, UK) into the readability and preferences of reading age 6 on text styles.
Quoted from the research, except for my comments in  brackets:
|Research – real research||
Experiments on foggy text (www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_read1.html)
Experiments suggest that pronounced modularity and diminutive ascenders [as in typefaces such as Avant Garde, Futura, and Comic Sans] render a word ambiguous when it isn’t seen clearly.
An analysis of letter shape identified in letter groupings (no longer available on the web, written by Stuart Gluth with reference to the typeface he designed called Roxane):
According to this research, legibility is enhanced by:
1. making the differences in the negative spaces as great as possible in the spaces inside the letters
2. maximising the differences in size and shape between left and right, between top and bottom and between open and closed spaces
The ‘optimal’ typeface for legibility from this research forms part of the recommendations of the research and comes out looking rather like the font that is called Frutiger.
Next page in this set: Newspaper Typography Strategies .