Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

How legibility and readability differ

From: Foundations of Typography

Video: How legibility and readability differ

A lot of people don't know the difference between legibility and readability. They are both important, but there is a difference that you should know. Legibility measures the ability to decipher something, that is can you look at it and make sense of it? In typographic terms legibility measures how easy or difficult it is to see the differences between one letter of a typeface and another. This is a function of the type's design. The most legible typefaces have individual character shapes which are clearly defined from one another.

How legibility and readability differ

A lot of people don't know the difference between legibility and readability. They are both important, but there is a difference that you should know. Legibility measures the ability to decipher something, that is can you look at it and make sense of it? In typographic terms legibility measures how easy or difficult it is to see the differences between one letter of a typeface and another. This is a function of the type's design. The most legible typefaces have individual character shapes which are clearly defined from one another.

Also, they usually have large excites and large counter spaces. In this example, you can see that the serifs make it easy to see the difference between the Is and the Ls. The serifs provide a little extra detail. Studies have shown that serif typefaces are more legible than sans serif typefaces because of the details provided by the serifs. This is why you will not see a book type set in a sans serif typeface.

Lengthy reading in a sans serif would be uncomfortable. If legibility measures the reader's ability to see the text, readability measures how much the reader wants to read the text. That is based on how the designer invites the reader into the text. Another way of saying that is how appealing does the text appear to the reader? For example, a page of text might be perfectly legible, but might not be appealing to the reader.

There are many ways to make that same text more inviting. We want to create some visual relief, places where the eye can focus or even rest. Even small gestures can invite the viewer in. A line break or two with some lead-in caps might help. You could find appropriate places to insert drop caps. These can be used to create some focal points, with spaces between the paragraphs. Try looking for interesting sentences that can be pulled out of the text and made larger.

And adding color can add appeal to the reader. These small changes provide something we call entry points. Entry points are places where a reader can choose to enter the text and start reading. Magazines do a great job of providing multiple entry points. Here are some examples. Look at all of the entry points in this single page. There are about 15 or so different places that I might choose to dip into the text.

Here is another example. It helps readers if you can find a section of text which can be separated into a mini story that can work on its own. This infographic can be read as a separate yet related story, and it's visually dynamic on the page. Other entry points are the photo's caption and a break in the narrative using lead-in text in another color. Maybe your text can be divided into sections with their own headlines, as in this example.

Think about ways that the text can be broken up into more bite-sized chunks. Adding color into selected type or other graphic elements, adding some white space, each of these steps adds to the readability of your project. Even though a lot of people think legibility and readability are the same, you can see that they are actually quite different. Just to recap, legibility measures whether the viewer can read the text and readability measures how much the reader wants to read the text.

Understanding this difference will help you focus on the best ways to improve your viewer's experience.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Typography
Foundations of Typography

46 video lessons · 34676 viewers

Ina Saltz
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 9m 5s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. Why good typography matters
      1m 55s
    3. The power of type
      1m 53s
    4. The theory of typographic relativity
      1m 53s
    5. Getting the most out of this course
      1m 26s
  2. 23m 49s
    1. Serif vs. sans serif
      3m 27s
    2. Display type vs. text type
      3m 39s
    3. Type history
      2m 48s
    4. Type classification
      4m 8s
    5. Other type categories
      3m 24s
    6. Guidelines for combining typefaces
      3m 49s
    7. Using cases
      2m 34s
  3. 18m 28s
    1. Anatomy: Parts and shapes of type
      4m 35s
    2. Size and measurements of type
      2m 18s
    3. Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes
      3m 53s
    4. Reviewing the terminology of type, based on function
      3m 27s
    5. Working with color and tonal weight: Exercises
      4m 15s
  4. 20m 27s
    1. Kerning and kerning pairs
      3m 33s
    2. Tracking and leading
      3m 49s
    3. Exploring variations in type alignment
      3m 55s
    4. Hyphenation and justification
      3m 13s
    5. Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation
      2m 26s
    6. Other typographic best practices
      3m 31s
  5. 10m 3s
    1. Where type begins: The mark of the hand
      2m 28s
    2. Related parts and shapes: Family resemblances
      4m 35s
    3. Designing a typeface
      3m 0s
  6. 22m 19s
    1. How legibility and readability differ
      3m 48s
    2. Examining factors affecting legibility
      4m 46s
    3. Hierarchy and functionality
      4m 29s
    4. Systematized hierarchy
      3m 52s
    5. Paragraphs, drop caps, and entry points
      2m 41s
    6. Typographic abominations
      2m 43s
  7. 11m 8s
    1. Opposing forces of typography
      3m 8s
    2. The grid: A structure for containing type
      3m 6s
    3. Contrast and scale
      4m 54s
  8. 9m 41s
    1. Typographic expressiveness
      3m 22s
    2. The emotional impact of type
      2m 47s
    3. Three-dimensional type
      3m 32s
  9. 8m 55s
    1. Working with numbers
      2m 10s
    2. Expert characters and analphabetic symbols
      1m 56s
    3. Using typography to navigate content
      1m 51s
    4. Using typography to navigate the environment
      2m 58s
  10. 9m 14s
    1. Managing fonts and building your type library
      3m 14s
    2. Developing your typographic eye
      2m 31s
    3. Breaking the rules
      1m 41s
    4. What's next
      1m 48s

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed Foundations of Typography.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your lynda.com subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.