Signs of the Times - August 2016 - (Page 74)

Penn State Study Assesses Font Legibility Gemini-funded study examines 34 fonts for signmaking applications By Philip M. Garvey This condensed version of a 20-page report on the Legibility of Different Fonts stems from research funded by Gemini Inc. (Cannon Falls, MN), a manufacturer of dimensional letters and conducted by Philip Garvey, a senior research associate at Penn State Univ's Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. Garvey, a principal investigator on numerous evaluations of commercial sign performance issues for the signage industry, has also contributed to the federal guidelines on electronic-messagesign visibility for the FHWA and the Access Board. Over the past 15 years, he has overseen more than a dozen studies about signs in conjunction with the Bristol, PA-based United States Sign Council (USSC), which has recently introduced its new Model OnPremise Sign Code, A comprehensive model for local regulation of on-premise signs. The research purpose is to help sign designers and end users to make informed decisions about the fonts they choose for signs. I n 2015, Penn State conducted a study that involved 64 signs that utilized 64 words in 34 unique fonts; and each sign included a graphic element. The fonts were 74 SIGNS OF THE TIMES August 2016 displayed as scale-sized one-word, onpremise signs on a high-resolution computer monitor. The goal was to determine the legibility distance of each sign and its related font. Penn State chose 64 people - 27 males and 37 females, with ages ranging from 19-87 years - to evaluate the legibility of these signs and the relative fonts. The Penn State team separated the study group participants into three age groups: 20 at 19-34 years; 23 at 35-59 years; and 21 at 60 years and older. Each sign example compared upper vs. lower-case letters; serif vs. sans-serif letters; word superiority (legible versus illegible); and art/word combinations. Overall, the 64 subjects viewed 64 fonts and words (4,096 observations). The findings were that font legibility varied greatly, with Gill Sans uppercase having the best legibility, and Mistral lowercase the least. Gils Sans was legible from an average distance of 49.64 ft., which is more than 300% further than the lesser Mistral, which was only visible from 14.53 ft. In addition, the top five visible fonts following Gill Sans were Avenir Medium UC (46.37 ft.), Copperplate Gothic UC (46.29 ft.), Helvetica UC (44.86 ft.) and Kabel Ultra UC (44.14 ft.). For optimum legibility, the study noted that fonts required a minimum ratio of 1 in. of letter height for each 5 ft. of viewing distance. Of the 34 fonts, 31 were available in both upper- and lower-case versions and the study revealed that the upper-case words were always more legible. In 16 of these 31 cases, the upper-case distinction added more than 5 ft. to the viewing distance. Most notable were the upper- and lower-case legibility differences for three fonts: Papyrus uppercase added 15.79 ft., Helvetica uppercase added 14.78 ft. and Gill Sans uppercase added 13.32 ft. No other uppercase font added more than 8.71 ft. Serif and san-serif styles didn't present a significant difference in uppercase legibility and the lowercase legibility serif, and sanserif styles' difference wasn't large enough to be significant. The study tested five fonts at different "weights" (i.e., bold versus condensed), which significantly affected legibility difference: * For both upper- and lowercase, Times Bold is significantly more legible than Times New Roman; * For both upper- and lowercase, Optima Bold is significantly more legible than Optima; * For both upper- and lowercase, Garamond Bold is significantly more legible than Abode Garamond.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - August 2016

Signs of the Times - August 2016
ST Update
Technology Update
Why You Should Invest in a Color-Management Device
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review - Epson SureColor S80600
Technology Review - The AXYZ Trident
Shop Ops
Sign Museum News
New Products
Digging Deep
Writing on the Wall
Dostoevsky and the Crane Truck
Penn State Study Assesses Font Legibility
A Crossroads Celebration
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - August 2016