Typography | Basics

Type for web

Consider this:

A fax in normal mode has a resolution of 100 dpi – slightly more than that of the screen on a Windows computer, and over 25% higher resolution than a Macintosh screen. This means that the lowly fax has better resolution than the most sophisticated Web site. Are there fonts which are better than others to overcome the drawbacks of low screen resolution? Are there fonts ideally suited to creating dynamic web graphics? You bet! These three basic rules will help you choose the right font for your web site:

Think Simple
Simple shapes translate best to low resolution viewing. Fancy typefaces are generally not at home on the web. This is because first, decorative typefaces can detract from the communication process. And second, unless fancy typefaces are used at very large sizes, the fancy bits are lost because of low resolution of computer screens. Typefaces, like Galena, Silica, or Bliss, which have simple yet distinctive character shapes, look and read best on low resolution screens.

Big is Better
The simple fact is: with modest screen resolutions, the bigger the type, the more pixels you have to define the letters – and the better your electronic pages look. Text type as big as 16 point won’t look ungainly, and is significantly easier to read than the smaller stuff. Big display type not only adds drama to web pages, it makes a point faster and more emphatically. The letters also look better because there are more pixels to form them. Typefaces with big proportions and large x-heights also help create much better web graphics. Designs like Vellvé, TF Forever, Showcard Gothic or TF Ardent are naturals for banners and subheads, while Alinea Sans or Roman and Bookman Oldstyle are great text faces.

Sans are Safe
Sans serif typeface designs tend to work best on the web – especially for text copy. When printed on paper, the serifs on typefaces are only a tiny percentage of the typeface’s design. On-screen, however, because of the limited number of pixels available, serifs take up a much bigger proportion of the information. In a web environment, they can become distracting “noise” to the communication process.

The best typeface for web page design and internet publishing is a sans serif (because it is more legible than a serif design), bold weight (to enable high levels of visibility), of condensed proportions (to obtain the maximum number of words in the smallest space). Sort of sounds like Helvetica Bold Condensed, doesn’t it?

While Helvetica is a good, if somewhat ordinary choice, other sans serifs also make excellent selections. Rotis Sans, Gill Sans, and Lucida Sans are all great examples. If you want to use a serif typeface, try one like Lucida Bright, Rockwell or Jante Antiqua. They are exceptionally legible designs with sturdy serifs that will stand up to low resolution screen distortions. Scripts generally do not translate well to web pages, but if you really want to use one choose a design that is bold and not too fancy – like Swing, Nadianne or Squickt.