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Rhythm and Reading Comfort

Ralf Herrmann

Ann Bessemans’ talk from ATypI 2015 in São Paulo

These days rhythm within typefaces is treated very homogenously. The perfect example is the currently dominant early 21th century letter model where all the letters within a typeface get roughly the same width. But how does this development affect reading comfort? Currently, there is no closed definition of reading comfort and how to test it (quantitatively) in the best possible way. Tracy (1986) describes readability in terms of quality of visual comfort, as an important requirement in the comprehension of long stretches of text without experiencing physical complaints. There is strong evidence that visual comfort has to do with the rhythm of the typeface. Studies show that stripe patterns impede the reading process due to visual discomfort. Visual discomfort refers to the adverse effects of viewing certain kind of visual patterns, like text. This lecture will offer new insights into the way how to define reading comfort and why measuring visual comfort, independent from reading performance, seems to be innovative.

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