A couple thoughts on typography

Font embedding not such a good idea?

The most recent Boag World podcast interviewed Mark Boulton. Boulton has a contrarian opinion on font embedding. Nearly all web designers are excited about font embedding (the ability to have fonts download on-the-fly if a page uses a font not installed on the user’s computer). Bolton’s not so sure this is a good idea. Fonts are designed for a purpose, and most fonts were designed for print. The handful of fonts that were designed first for online viewing (Verdana, Georgia, etc.) are widely installed. If font embedding were a way to broaden the pallet of fonts designed for use on a computer monitor, that would be great. But the most likely use of font embedding would be to allow designers to use more fonts online that were not designed to be used online.

Comic Sans and dyslexia

Comic Sans is terribly overused. It’s not a bad font, but it’s often used in inappropriate contexts and has become a cliché for poor typographical taste.

However, I heard somewhere that people with dyslexia can read Comic Sans more easily than most other fonts. I think the explanation was that the font breaks some typical symmetries. For example, a “p” is not an exact mirror image of a “q.” (The former has a more pronounced serif on top.) On the other hand, the “b” and “d” do look like near mirror images. I wonder whether anyone has designed a font specifically to help people with dyslexia. Maybe such  fonts would exaggerate the asymmetries that were accidental in the design of Comic Sans. Delivering such fonts would be a good application of font embedding.

Update: Karl Ove Hufthammer left a comment pointing out Andika, a font with “easy-to-perceive letterforms that will not be readily confused with one another.” Here’s a sample.

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One thought on “A couple thoughts on typography

  1. Regarding Comic Sans, for this purpose Andika is a much better alternative. In Andika, neither the ‘p’s and ‘q’s nor the ‘b’s and ‘d’s are mirrors. Andika is also completely free (under SIL Open Font License), and quite beautiful, in my opinion. Here’s the description from the Web page:

    Andika is a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font designed especially for literacy use, taking into account the needs of beginning readers. The focus is on clear, easy-to-perceive letterforms that will not be readily confused with one another.

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