I personally believe that whether a typeface is considered legible or readable is down the perception & interpretation of the individual observing it, which is ultimately influenced by the ziegst of that period. I have done a previous post here that goes into a lot more detail about how your surroundings influences they way to perceive & interpret something, except here I have used a very different case study as an example.
One factor that determines a legibility is taste for example a typeface that would have previously been thought of as being to condensed meaning it holds very little kerning and the tracking appears too be to tight Is now regarded as absolutely fine and acceptable. But how has this change come about according to Zuzana Licko "you read best what you read most". Through it's increasingly frequent use within the media, it gets more exposure therefore people will see it more and eventually it becomes normality for them. Just like the quote 'people are strange when your a stranger' (Jim Morrison the doors 2010) when your new to something of course it will seem strange and perhaps a bit bizzar but acceptance comes with time if your repeatedly seeing the same thing it becomes familiar a no longer strange and acceptance is more granted. Like with Times New Roman it has become 'preference by habit' due to the fact it has been around so long.
Dr lewis Emile Javal a French methodologists said 'the most legible type is also the most beautiful' which touches on the issue that nowadays not all typography is made to be legible nor readable but just to be seen it is now made for purely aesthetic and decorative purposes much like a lot of David Carsons work which I have also discussed in my other post on legibility and rreadability that I mention above. In line with this, Beatreice Warde's theory was that 'the best type existed merely to communicate an idea'. I have the same identical view, type is a form of visual language one we have created to communicate with one another through the use off mark making. I believe that it is not the form of the typeface i.e the structure of the letters that determines whether it is the best or not but the context in which it is used, as like with anything, nothing has meaning without context in my opinion.
Poster designed by Beatrice Warde, 1932. (image and caption from Design Observer)
Moving on from this and back to legibility, people found it incredibly hard to determine whether a text was legible or not enough to use as it is so open for interpretation so they needed some scientific proof to help them decide. In 1940 they used a technique called the 'blink test' as humans we tend to blink more often when our eyes are under some sort of strain. They used the amount of time someone blink while looking at examples of different typefaces as measure of how legible a typeface was. These tests were carried out under lab conditions so factors like lighting, and fonts size were kept consistent throughout to ensure the most accurate results. Not surprisingly those typefaces that did best were those that were most commonly used and had been around for the longest like Bondi and Garamond.
To read all the posts I've done on previous chapters type just my type in the search box to the left of my webpage. The next post I will be uploading on this book will be another Fontbreak this one is dedicated to Albertus, the font used in the this is a printing office poster above.
Title: Just My Type
Author: Simon Garfield
Published: 2010 Profile Books London