[thelist] A pixel is not a pixel

Arlen.P.Walker at jci.com Arlen.P.Walker at jci.com
Thu Jun 14 14:13:43 CDT 2001

>I don't see how this would get us anywhere. What units would we use to
>specify the font size? You're never going to specify a minimum font size
>that's bigger than your preferred font size, so if your preferred font
>is too small, your minimum font size will be way too small.
>It seems that this would have no effect on the situation of different
>rendering at different sizes on different platforms. Am I missing

In a word, yes, but it may not be obvious. It would only be usable with a
relative font size measurement. Let me expand:

My eyes are old, I like to have at least 12pt type (on bad days 14 pt)
facing me in my window, so that's how I set my browser default font size.
Charles, on the other hand, has fantastic vision in those fiercely
penetrating green eyes and likes a smaller font, say 11px, for his default

Now, an accomodating designer can specify type sizes relative to the
defaults we have chosen, and maintain a consistent "feel" for the
typography of a website by putting relative values in the CSS (120%, 1.2em
for larger, shouting type, even 200%+ to scream something; 80%, perhaps 60%
for the "fine print"). We can both be served type at a comfortable size for
our specific tastes and conditions, while the general proportions of the
type remains consistent (yes, I know it's not going work exactly, but at
least an approximation of harmony on the page will be maintained).

This is all possible now. But the problem is that when I set my small type
on the web to 75%, and Charles cruises by, his monitor cannot faithfully
reproduce type that small, so he doesn't get to read the incredible
fantasically funny footnotes I set in small type.

A "minimum-font-size" attribute would let me create a stylesheet that tries
to maintain the typographic harmony, but gives up all pretense of doing
this if the type size would drop below my specified effective viewing size.
Likewise, I could set such an attribute in my browser to override
eagle-eyed designers who are under the delusion that I'm able to read print
that looks more to me like pepper spilled on a formica countertop.

So the fonts render at different sizes on different platforms. That doesn't
matter if we don't specify the base font size for the page, but only
relative font sizes. But we can't completely rely on relative sizes working
unless we can effectively set an absolute lower limit to the shrinkage.

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen.P.Walker at JCI.Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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