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Typography counts November 26, 2012

Posted by Mia in Frontiers, Uncategorized.

A recent study by Larson and Picard on the Aesthetics of Reading has been circulating on the internets (thanks to Fadayev’s UsabilityPost). One thing the authors tested for is whether good typography can be measured to have a positive effect on mood. The interesting thing is that reading comprehension and speed were not measured, but rather the reader’s subjective impression of how long it took to read the piece (the duration). The authors of the study that reading is an engaging task, but reading when high quality typography is present is “more engaging” — as measured by users consistently (and by a wide margin) underestimating the amount of time it took them to complete the reading.

…high quality typography appears to induce a positive mood, similar to earlier mood inducers such as a small gift or watching a humorous video. This is an exciting finding because there are important differences between good and poor typography that appear to have little effect on common performance measures such as reading speed and comprehension.

It’s great to see the importance of typography getting attention. Recently the UK GDS team (responsible for launching the new website gov.uk) was deciding on legibility, so they looked to a font widely adopted for highway signage:

Accessibility is key at GDS and ideally we’d like a typeface that’s good enough for us not to need an ‘easier to read’ font option for the dyslexic and those with other visual or cognitive issues. We tried lots of different ones and the best was Transport. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – it’s the typeface designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert in the late fifties/early sixties for Britain’s national motorway and road sign system. They spent years testing for legibility in all sorts of extreme conditions; in the rain, at night, at speed.

A font that withstood years of testing under extreme driving conditions should score well on lowering the stress quotient for sure.