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You are here: Home / Conferences / Amsterdam 2013 / Presentation programme

Legibility according to DIN 1450

When Thu 10 Oct 0900
Where Krasnapolsky A
What Science/Assessment
Who Albert-Jan Pool

What function do serifs have in the process of reading? Even in the most sophisticated research and literature on legibility of typefaces I have not found a final answer to this question. Until recent date DIN 1450, the German norm on legibility of typefaces strongly recommended the use of sans serif typefaces for all kinds of texts including trade– and technical magazines as well as instruction manuals. The norm did not make any recommendations on the choice of type for books, magazines and newspapers. Mainly through its conjunction with DIN 1451, the norm on typefaces which also describes DIN Mittelschrift and DIN Engschrift, typographers and type designers felt that ‘DIN norms’ are in stark contrast to typographic practice though. A few years ago DIN 1450 had been put up for revision on request by societies of people with low vision. One of their interests was to include reading texts as in books and medical information. Together with prof. Florian Adler, Ivo Gabrowitsch (FontShop International), Ralf Herrmann (, Otmar Hoefer (Linotype), Peter Karow (co-founder of URW), prof. Indra Kupferschmid and several experts on issues concerning low vision, optics and lighting, I have been working on the new version that has been released in April this year. Validating the ‘functionality’ of serifs has been on the agenda of course, but in the process of defining the new model of describing requirements for typefaces to be used in all texts, ranging from books to signage we have come to the conclusion that deliberate in- or exclusion of serifs can not lead to a realistic and satisfying result. Speaking in terms of functionality again, it appeared that it is rather ‘Modern’ in the sense of contrast and ‘Modernism’ in the sense of counters than ‘Serifs’ which tend to be counter-productive when it comes to legibility. To get to the point: the definition of type sizes by their body sizes in points is counter-productive too as most parameters for legibility can be described more for accurately through their relation to the x-height. In my presentation I will show some of the basics that enabled us to set up the new version of DIN 1450 which is to be beneficially for both car drivers and the readers of literature, information panels and medical information leaflets.

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