On Legibility

paul.halupka's picture

Just yesterday I discovered a book called "Typography: How to Make It Most Legible" by Rolf F. Rehe. After a search for Mr. Rehe's name on Typophile, I was surprised to find that he's never been mentioned here. Is this because there's an understanding amongst specialists in legibility that this guy is outdated (the book was published in 1972, updated in 1976), or have I happened upon some rarity in the Chicago Public Library?

My second guess is Mr. Rehe's research, a compilation of findings from psychologists and legibility experts, has been made redundant or irrelevant by more updated and thorough documents like the ones mentioned in Paul Hunt's discussion at: http://typophile.com/node/41577

Either way, I'll be paraphrasing his ideas in a Wiki, if I can figure out how to author one.

joeclark's picture

Rolf Rehe was an active participant on Typo-L, as you may determine for yourself. I fear there is a possibility he may have died.


Joe Clark
http://joeclark.org/

kentlew's picture

> I fear there is a possibility he may have died.

If so, it would have to have been quite recently, within the last few months. Rolf just wrote an interview with David Berlow in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Design Journal, a quarterly publication of the SND (Society of News Design), of which I believe Rolf was a founding member.

paul.halupka's picture

Indeed, a google search shows his connections to SND and even an early-90s looking website for his own design company.

Basically I would like to figure out if I should take this guy's research to heart, and if he's relevant to the type community.

Not too familiar with Typo-L, is this what type geeks used before Typophile?

aaronbell's picture

Typo-L is a typography mailing list (pretty old school, eh?) so folk with an interest could communicate and share ideas. It is still running, though may not be as active as it once was.

Si_Daniels's picture

>is this what type geeks used before Typophile?

Not quite, it was the place where newbies went to get their questions answered without having to do proper research.

kentlew's picture

> is this what type geeks used before Typophile?

Sii's [not-completely-undeserved] snipe aside, both the Typo-L and Type Design e-mail lists were pretty active in the "old days" (ca. late 90s, early 00s) before internet forums took off. Rolf was active on both. Some of us regulars here migrated from there. Typophile forums and certain blogs pretty much supplanted the e-mail lists.

I'm not familiar with Rolf's book, so I can't comment on its value.

Nick Shinn's picture

if he’s relevant to the type community.

Newspaper design is not much respected in the graphic design community, perhaps because it's not something that any graphic design firms (other than a few specialists) or ad agencies do, or understand--for instance, they don't appreciate many of the typographic constraints of news pagination systems. But it is hugely important to the type industry, an important source of commissions to leading foundries--and mine. And it has some of the most sophisticated, most-read typography on the planet. So as a type critic who specializes in news design, Rolf Rehe's opinions carry a lot of weight.

paul.halupka's picture

>Not quite, it was the place where newbies went to get their questions answered without having to do proper research.

sii (and kentlew for that matter) not sure why i've been sniped here. Surely you didn't take "type geeks" as a derogatory comment? I am a newbie (to Typophile, not design) and frankly the snobbish attitude is unappreciated. I'm just an aspiring type designer who is trying to learn from those more established in the community. Or is that not the point of a forum by type geeks for type geeks? I don't quite see the point of snide comments here, as I was only hoping to contribute by initiating this thread. Hugs.

>So as a type critic who specializes in news design, Rolf Rehe’s opinions carry a lot of weight.

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Nick. His book seemed very well thought-out and deeply researched. From here on, I will follow his rules with the understanding that they may have been developed with news design in mind.

kentlew's picture

Paul --

I took Si's comment to be aimed at the Typo-L list itself, which IIRC deteriorated somewhat miserably at the end. I think I bailed in the middle of one particularly nasty squabble.

I didn't think the snipe was targeted at you. And so, my reference ("not-completely-undeserved") was intended also at the memory of that list, not you. If my interpretation is indeed correct, it was quite an inside "joke."

Re-reading, I can see how you would take offense. Apologies for my unwitting part in any perceived insult. You're perfectly welcome here, as far as I'm concerned.

I'll let Simon explain for himself.

-- Kent.

Si_Daniels's picture

Yep it was a sideways jab at the typo-l culture back then – I didn’t put you or the question in the newbie category, esp. as you’ve been a member here for two years.

Rolf Rehe's picture

Recently questions about my life status were raised in this column. If I may borrow a line from Mark Twain, "Reports about my demise are greatly exaggerated." Furthermore, I recently checked my pulse and it is beating at a comfortable rate. Ergo, I am available for a discussion on legibility matters. And Nick Shinn, thanks for your kind words about to me.

Rolf F. Rehe

paul.halupka's picture

Thanks, everyone, for clearing up the misunderstanding. We're all friends here and I apologize for accidentally taking this out of context. Definitely missed the inside joke.

Rolf, hello! I am greatly interested in finding out more about your research. I really enjoyed your book, found it very eye-opening. Have you published more since?

kentlew's picture

Paul -- Don't worry. This is the internet; it happens. Glad you checked it out and we could clear it up.

Now, back to your topic . . .

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