02. Legibility

Legibility is the the quality of text being clear enough to read. So what makes one typeface more legible than another? In order answer this question, we must look into the anatomy of type faces.

Type face anatomy

Firstly, let's go over some terms.

Ascender line
Line above above the cap height.
Cap Height
Top of flat letters (top of the T).
X-height
Height of letter x (same as height of an o in our figure).
Baseline
Line the letter sits on.
Descender line
Line below the baseline (bottom of g or y).
Typography anatomy

Common properties of legible fonts

Here is a list of what legible typography element have in common:

  • Loose letter spacing
  • Generous x-heights
  • Similar cap heights
  • Prominent ascenders and descenders
  • Common counters
  • Open bowls
  • Open apertures
  • Common serifs

And some properties of illegible fonts include the following:

  • ALL CAPS.
  • Font is so italicized that the spacing between letters get lost.
  • If the font weight is too bold, the bowls start closing up.

Choosing the right font

There are plenty of great websites out there that offer thousands of fonts to choose from. For example, FontDeck allows you to browse through a myriad of fonts.

When choosing a font, make sure to check its italicized, bolded forms for readability. Additionally, vary the font size to check how it looks at smaller or larger fonts.

Choosing two fonts

When choosing two type faces to work together, make sure you have a good balance - neither should dominate the other.

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