Review of research on graphic text design

Subject: Review of research on graphic text design
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 06:59:57 +0800

Dick Miller posted the following summary to the UTEST list last month.

I asked Dick if I could forward this to TECHWR-L, as type issues are
a hardy perennial here, and he agreed. I thought this might be useful
as it's clearly presented *and* has references, unlike 90% of the
flameb... er, opinions that usually gets posted.

You don't have to agree with all these findings (in fact it would be
a worry if you did, as some of them are contradictory) but at least
you have the opportunity to chase them down to their source.

Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) "Live wrong and prosper"
Functional Software Pty Ltd

------- Forwarded Message

Subject: Type case redux

In searching my files, I came across the following information that
seems pertinent to the earlier thread on type cases, and thought I
would post it for those who are interested.

--Dick Miller

Review of research literature on graphic text design

Type style

Some research indicates that readers can read serif typefaces more
quickly than sans serif, but other research indicates little
difference in legibility.


Ragged right margins do not adversely affect legibility. In fact,
full justification reduces poor readers' performance. Variable-
spaced, full-justified text improves reading speed. A contradictory
finding was that full-justified text does not benefit skilled
readers. Large, unpredictable spaces between words and at the end
of sentences reduce reading speed.

Kerning and letter spacing

Readers read more text in a given period when letters are close set.


Smaller type with leading is not more legible than larger type set

Line length

Ten to twelve words per line, or about fifty to seventy characters,
is the optimal line length for most conventional type sizes.

Type size

Nine- to eleven-point type promotes faster reading.

Paragraph indentation

Indenting the first line of a paragraph improves legibility.

Uppercase versus lowercase

Text set in lowercase letters is read ten percent faster than similar
material set in all capitals. Text set in all capitals is read about
nineteen percent slower than text set in mixed case. Capitalizing
every letter of individual words makes it easier for readers to
locate information.

Type weight

Boldface type is the most salient way of highlighting words or short
portions of text.

Italic type

Italic print is read more slowly than roman lowercase.


Baundin, Fernand. 1989. "How Typography Works and Why It Is
Important." New York: Design Press.

Carter, R., B. Day, and P. Megs.1995. "Typographic Design: Form and
Communication." New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Gilreath, C. T. 1993. "Graphic Cueing of Text: The Typographic and
Diagraphic Dimensions." In Visible Language: 336-61.

Matis, D. 1995. "The Graphic Design of Text: A Review of Research."
Master's thesis, Southern College of Technology, Marietta, GA.

Schriver, K. A. 1989. "Document Design from 1980 to 1989: Challenges
That Remain. In Technical Communication: 316-31.

Toffler, A., and H. Toffler. 1995. "Creating a New Civilization: The
Politics of the Third Wave." Atlanta: Turner.

Williams, R. 1994. "The Non-Designer's Design Book." Berkeley:

------- End of Forwarded Message

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