Creating a typeface is the job of type designers. You, as a user, do not have to care about the design details; the important thing is that you have a great reading experience. However, even non-designers face font choices nowadays, and we know why typeface and typography matter. The following might help you choose the right font for your needs.
Legibility is the first thing to look at. What makes a highly legible typeface?
- San serif types are considered more legible in general, especially for digital media. A typeface with uniformed stems and clear crossbars with consistent thickness is considerably easier to read in small sizes.
- Wide apex, large counters, and expanded apertures improve character differentiation and recognition at small sizes.
- Clear letterforms without ambiguity by eliminating similar shapes, for example, between the number “1”, capital “I” and lowercase “l” and between lowercase “a”, “e” and “o” increase legibility. Correct letter spacing – not too tight, but also not too loose – also increases legibility.
- A taller x-height (to a certain extent, of course) increases legibility, especially for small sizes.
Another important criteria, especially for digital typography, is scalability. The legibility should be guaranteed in every user’s context, browser, screen size, connection speed, input method and user’s abilities. A well-crafted typeface that renders crisply in all different sizes and screen resolutions is crucial for a good reading experience.
A variety of styles and weights
A font family with a variety of styles and weights (e.g. light, regular, bold, black, italic, condensed, etc.) allows you to build a good typographic system, with an optimal contrast between different types of content, headlines, sub headlines, paragraphs, labels and so forth. However, having too many styles and weights within a layout is not recommended either. On the contrary, too many different styles can weaken the contrast and result in unnecessary cognitive load. Typography is all about creating the right contrast between different kinds of content to achieve the right visual hierarchy.
It is easy to measure how readable a typeface is, but it is harder to measure how it affects readers’ emotions. Type triggers our imaginations, evokes our emotions, prompts memories. How loud or quiet it looks, heavy or light, fast or slow. Type gives words a personality – modern/traditional, conventional/novel, expensive/cheap, factory-made/ hand-made, classic/neutral, intellectual/light-hearted, somber/cheerful, trustworthy/daring. The list is long. Your font choice indicates how serious you are and who your audience is. It clues the reader into your emotions and intentions before they have started to read. Slight details of shapes can influence the personality and readability drastically.
Language coverage is one of the most important requirements of a typeface depending on the number of countries in which your applications need to be available. Beyond the languages the font supports, fallback solutions need to be considered. In case the defined fonts cannot be displayed when an application initially loads, a fallback font is defined in the style sheet. Defining a fallback to a san-serif system font that is readily available on every user’s device is a simple solution to load applications in any language.
What would be a typeface that satisfies the above criteria for SAP?
That’s “72,” SAP’s proprietary typeface that we created for our software products! Find out more about 72, the typeface that won a Red Dot award, on the 72 website.
And by the way, this website, the SAP User Experience Community, also uses the 72 typeface. Let us know how your experience with 72 has been!