[thelist] What is you favourite web font?

Viveka Weiley viveka.weiley at gmail.com
Thu Oct 28 02:30:52 CDT 2004

On Wed, 27 Oct 2004 09:07:59 +0700, Bird <bird at koolfish.com> wrote:
> I have some that insist on Times New Roman even though I point out that
> I think its not great on the eyes on screen. They still feel that Arial
> and Verdana are not professional looking enough.

Arial maybe; it's an Abomination unto Nuggan, I reckon. But Verdana is
another kettle of fish - it was created by Matthew Carter, a very
well-respected type designer used to dealing with tight legibility
constraints (he designed Bell Centennial, used in US phone books) -
specifically for the screen. Nothing could be more professional.

Here's an article about it (the first Google hit):

Verdana does look too simple at large sizes though; it's a body text
face, not a display face. That's what Trebuchet is for; it looks very
close to Verdana, but has a little more complexity to it. Just right
for headings.

If your clients are really expressing a preference for Serif fonts as
seeming more professional, then try Georgia on them. Also designed by
Matthew Carter for the Beast of Redmond; one of very few serif fonts
made for the screen that I've ever heard of.

The problem with serif fonts on screen is that the stroke width of an
on-screen letter tends to be one pixel - but the serif width is also
one pixel. This makes the serifs far too prominent. In effect, it
turns any serif face into a slab serif (AKA egyptian) face. Think
WANTED posters. In print, serifs help lead the eye and so the
conventional wisdom is that they improve legibility. But no-one would
ever make that claim for a slab serif face. They were invented for use
as display faces, a kind of novelty, not for use in body copy.

Georgia is a miracle - a slab serif face that's legible as body copy.
It rescues the serif for the screen. Times New Roman was not designed
so carefully.

The only other font family I would look at for small sizes on screen
is Bitstream Vera.
The Vera family was also designed specifically for the screen. Also,
they're open source.


You also get a monospaced face in the family, which is nice, and I
like the Sans as much as I like Verdana. I don't like the Serif as
much as I like Georgia, and AFAIK there's no serif italic (so I assume
you'd just get a programmatic oblique, which Eric Gill would have
approved of, but personally I prefer a true italic) - but it's nice to
have the option.

I wouldn't use anything else for body copy on screen, because the low
resolution would mean that any charm or usefulness in the typeface
would be invisible anyway. When you have only 10 vertical pixels to
work with, you need something designed to deal with that.

For headings, I'll use anything at all. If the user doesn't have it,
you can always fall back to Georgia in the style sheet.
> I love other fonts but usually stick to Arial and Verdana for main text
> as I am still unsure as to what are available on the mass majority of
> peoples computers and don't want to take the risk of it defaulting to
> something obscure that screws up the design.

You can rely on Verdana, Trebuchet, Georgia and Comic Sans (ick!) on
any platform that has IE installed - meaning Mac and Windows. Apple
still includes IE5 with OS X, although the default browser is now
Safari. On Linux or BSD you should be able to rely on Bitstream Vera.


Viveka Weiley, Karmanaut.http://www.karmanaut.com
For a Free Geospace: http://www.planet-earth.org
VR on the Mac: http://www.MacWeb3D.org

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