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John Hudson /
December 6 2004 / Leagato & points
... reader-ability so far outweighs readability as a factor in reading that insisting on addressing the readability in typeface design is like trying to say that all shoes should be designed primarily to make walking easier, as if walking were difficult...
Tue, 2005-07-26 12:34 / Shinn / Hrant challenge
... the mass of everyday experiential evidence indicates that readerability matters much more to the reading process than the readability of what is read...
2005-07-27 23:33 / Shinn / Hrant challenge
... before we can meaningfully debate the readability of typeface design, we need to have a reasonable appreciation of the typical ability of the reader, which I maintain is very high indeed....
Thu, 2005-07-28 11:16 / Shinn / Hrant challenge
...my theory that readerability is the dominant factor in reading is based on my experience designing for multiple writing systems. The variety of h
Thu, 2005-07-28 17:20 / Shinn / Hrant challenge
... readerability is really what makes the immense richness of typography possible; if reading were difficult and required the designer’s attention to be completely focused on maximising readability, there would probably only be two or th
I think it is apt to insist that the typical ability of the average reader is very high and makes the immense richness of typography possible, but I think it is a mistake to oppose readerability and readability. John, you do this with phrases like 'so far outweighs' and 'matters much more' and 'is the dominant factor'.
Phenomenologically speaking, the two must go hand in hand: we can't read what is unreadable. Or to say the same thing differently we are not able to read what is not able to be read. I suspect we tend to forget that, in normal everyday use, readability is a gross measure. Writing in an illegible hand is unreadable.
In perceptual processing terms I see the reader's ability as primarily twofold.
1) an ability to see many (even eccentric) varieties of a letter as a given letter (for example a Raffia A as an a);
2) an ability to visually integrate ensembles of orthographically regular clusters of stimulus units (letters on a page) into familiar, object-like, perceptually molar, sense units.
Both involve perceptual learning, and the second ability is underdeveloped in people with dislexia.
The perceptual learning underlying reading ability has critical neurological learning components, extending through the multiple layers of the visual cortex up to an area that has been identified by magnetic resonance imagining as the visual word form area (VWFA) in the psychological literature.
It has been demonstrated that the spatial frequency channel used in reading is one in which, what I've called role-architectural components (and how they combine), are the grist for the perceptual processing in reading (and letter recognition) mill. This means: stems, bowls, counters, cross-bars, diagnols, and how they join. In typographical terms this is the province of letterform construction. So I would say that 'contstruction' 'outweighs' / 'matters more than' contrast manipulation--'is the dominant factor'--in basic reader-ability and gross readability.
I think contrast manipulation (and spacing) affects the level in the visual cortex just below the level at which 'role archiectural statistics' are compiled and integrated. This is a level where lateral inhibition and facilitation operate. This, I submit, corresponds to Hrant's subconscious level of reading and is still a bit of a dark area for empirical research. But issues of positive or negative noise and cue-value enhancement, are critical here. (For background on these perceptions, slog through to my Typo#13 contribution.) Much of the Typophile discussion about the finer points of readability are relevant to this level of processing. And it is important, because too much superfluous spiking in neurological impulse terms affects the 'effortlessness' experience in reading; effects the subconscious perception of 'transparency'.
Hrant makes a case against chirography in 'a priori' conceptual terms: the priority chirography gives to the shape-wise integrity of the black cannot (IHHO) logically meet the demands of total notan. (absolute notan is presumed--erroneously?--to be good for bouma integrity.)
I prefer to deal with the chirography question in functional anatomical terms.
Perhaps we need to distinguish gross readability ([g]readability) and fine readability ([f]readability). Chirographically regular fonts are wonderfully [g]readable; but ideological consequential chirography (rigourously executed in practical terms) is perhaps anti-progress in [f]readability terms.