The Great Typography Bake-off: Comparing Legibility At-a-glance

There is presently no accepted scientific method for comparing font legibility under time-pressure, in ‘glanceable’ interfaces such as automotive displays and smartphone  notifications. A ‘bake-off’ method is demonstrated with eight popular sans-serif typefaces. The results produce actionable information to guide design decisions when information must be consumed at-a-glance.

Typography plays an increasingly important role in today’s dynamic digital interfaces. Graphic designers and interface engineers have more typographic options than ever before. Sorting through this maze of design choices can be a daunting task. Here we present the results of an experiment comparing differences in glance-based legibility between eight popular sans-serif typefaces. The results show typography to be more than a matter of taste, especially in safety critical contexts such as in-vehicle interfaces. Our work provides both a method and rationale for using glanceable typefaces, as well as actionable information to guide design decisions for optimised usability in the fast-paced mobile world in which information is increasingly consumed
in a few short glances.

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