Wednesday, January 16, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Turning Type Sideways

Jonathan Hoefler (via John Gruber):

This month, researchers made official something that typeface designers have long known: that horizontal lines appear thicker than vertical ones. At left, a square made from equally thick strokes; at right, the one that feels equally weighted, its vertical strokes nearly 7% thicker than the horizontals. This phenomenon, central to typeface design, has implications for the design of logos, interfaces, diagrams, and wayfinding systems, indeed anywhere a reader is likely to encounter a box, an arrow, or a line.

[…]

Is it possible that all of typography’s many optical illusions can be correlated with misapplied learning from our experience of the real world? So much of perception involves reflexively adjusting for the effects of context, light, or perspective, in order to make quick judgments about size, distance, color, or mass. Do we perceive round letters as shorter than flat ones because we intuitively understand something about the weight of cubes and spheres? Is it a lifetime of looking at foreshortened things above us that leads us to expect a well-balanced letterform to be smaller on top than on the bottom?

2 Comments

Mayson Lancaster

Am I the only one who doesn't percieve this? I.e. I see horizontal and vertical lines of equal width as equally wide.

>Am I the only one who doesn't percieve this?

Yeah. I don't want to make blanket statements about my perception, but to me, the square on the left looked perfect, and the one on the right looked misshapen. I'm guessing this is probably at least partially learned, so these effects might be very different for different people. Something I personally noticed is that the Ideal Sans S looks pretty straight to me, but when it's mirrored horizontally, it looks like it's leaning left.

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