Lund undertakes an exceptionally detailed and critical review of 28 typeface legibility studies conducted between 1896 and 1997. He finds seriouos methodological problems in nearly all of them. Legibility itself is still poorly defined, even today, and is not well distinguished from readability. It turns out a surprising number of otherwise convincing “legibility studies” have been based on reading speed or reading comprehension, which have no bearing on glyph recognition per se. Reading speed is now known to be mainly a function of cognition speed, which varies considerably from individual to individual and is not related in any straightforward way (and possibly in no way) to typeface design. Reading comprehension is even further removed from type design.
It does feel unnatural for me to read large amounts of sans-serif text (on paper), but it may simply be that I’m not used to it.
Ole Lund’s dissertation is available for free download; you just have to register with your e-mail address (which the site doesn’t verify).
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