What is the most readable, appealing font? Besides Wingdings, of course.

I'm not talking programming font, but for design docs, documentation, web pages, etc.

What wins? Times New Roman 10pt, Arial 12pt, Verdana? Anyone have science in addition to their opinion?

+5  A: 

It entirely depends on the subject matter. Some typefaces are certainly more legible than others, but as for 'appealing', that is completely subjective.

Philip Morton

I've always been a Garamond man. Take that for what its worth.

Jonathan Beerhalter
Please provide added insight
+9  A: 

Personally I've found Myriad Pro to be the best all round font for documents etc.

Awesome typeface
It's the font that Apple uses for their product logos, and nobody ever faults their taste.
Mark Ransom
+23  A: 

A rule of thumb that I go by, which I can't remember where I learned from is:

  • For printed material, use a serif font, such as Times New Roman.

From Wikipedia:

In traditional printing serifed fonts are used for body text because they are considered easier to read than sans-serif fonts for this purpose.

  • For the screen, use a sans serif font, such as Arial.

From Wikipedia:

Sans-serif fonts have become the de facto standard for body text on-screen, especially online. It has been suggested this is because the small size of the font causes serif fonts to appear excessively cluttered on the screen.

Did a quick search and found the following article that may be of interest:

There is actually no real difference, at least this summary of many studies found it to be the case:
Philip Morton
I just found that article while editing my post as well!
Absolutely... Printed is usually better with serif. Good call!
Good advice, but I don't think it's specific enough to answer the question.
Mark Ransom
I disagree.... many of our users complain about arial in that 0 and 6 look the same.
@Zombies I can't stand it when there are similar characters or characters that are impossible to distinguish in a font! Reminds me of the phishers on with names like IllIlIl. In the font they used one's, L's, and i's all looked the same.
+1  A: 

Documentation : Calibri (came with Microsoft Word 2007), size at 10.

For web, I try to use standard Font to have something available to everybody (arial, Time news Roman, verdana).

For the web, I think it's better to let the user set up their browser with a font they like and stop trying to override their wishes.
Paul Tomblin
We should not give the CSS too Paul and let the user set up CSS for all webpage... to their wishes ;)
@Paul I am against this, we should think everything for the user (unless the user is as geek as we are and then they know how to customize stuff.
Camilo Martin
@Daok +1 for Calibri!
Camilo Martin
+5  A: 

I always use a font called Dolly with LaTeX for documentation and papers. It's awesome.

Remember that kerning can be changed for print witha decent editor. The web is a bit trickier.
Robert Fraser
Very nice font!
+8  A: 

It depends on your content as well as the presentation method (web pages have different requirements from printed documents, 10pt displays in different sizes depending on the screen resolution etc).

Oh yes, and then it is also a matter of taste...

A few general rules that I picked up from other people:

  • For screen presentation, use fonts without serifs (better readable)
  • For printed flow text (long paragraphs of text) use serif fonts (serifs form lines that guide the eye)
  • When choosing a san serif font for the screen, Verdana is better than Arial
  • When choosing a san serif font for print, Arial is better than Verdana
  • When distributing a word doc, stick to fonts that are most likely to be installed on any other computer (e.g. Arial, Times New Roman)
  • When designing a web page, you have a little more freedom, since you can designate alternative fonts if the primary font is not available
  • When distributing a pdf, you can embed the font in the document, so you can choose any font you like, the document will be presented as you intended on all other computers as well
  • For presentations:
    • Headings should be at least 32pt or bigger
    • Content should be at least 16pt or bigger

About the taste part (highly subjective):

  • Any other sans serif font looks better than Arial (many people love Helvetica)
  • Any other serif font looks better than Times New Roman
This study found that there is little difference (or at least no concensus on the difference) between the legibility of serif and sans serif typefaces:
Philip Morton
Verdana is not a really good font for the web. It has (had) problems with combining diacritics in Unicode. Out of other humanist sans-serifs shipped by MS, Trebuchet MS or Lucida Sans Unicode are probably a better choice.
"Any other sans serif font looks better than Arial (many people love Helvetica); Any other serif font looks better than Times New Roman" -- Comic Sans and Papyrus beg to disagree.
Robert Fraser
Even though this page (ironically) looks like crap, it has some good points regarding the use of Verdana.
Arve Systad
+3  A: 

A List Apart loves to talk about web design, including typography. I don't know if I'd call their articles scientific but they are thoughtful.

Some Actual Research:

Corbin March
+2  A: 

As far as web pages go (I make no assertion about anything else) there's a limited set of common standard fonts of which there are even fewer which are sans-serif (serif should really really be restricted for print).

Of those few I find all readable, but from a personal aesthetic point of view I like the Tahoma and Verdana chains. Arial is fine, but it's too ubiquitous.

Edit: and actual dimensions should not be built into the baseline. Let the user choose their own settings through the browser. Furthermore "pt" is for print media, use "em" or "%" for screen.

I disagree with your statement that serif should be restricted for print. While the standard font for browsers sometimes being serif is ridiculous, serif fonts are quite useful for titles, and can add style if well used, even for ugly fonts such as Times /new roman.
Camilo Martin
modern serif is quite unreadable at standard sizes, and although taking your point that serif for over-large elements like headers would be fine, it's not in the spirit of the question and a lot of font-purists would take issue with mixing serif and sans.
+1  A: 

The best practice is to use the most readable fonts. Unfortunately, this is more easily said than done. Experts do not always agree which fonts are the most readable or which ones are most appropriate for use.

Have a look at Fonts designed especially for on-screen viewing

And also at Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces?

+25  A: 
Helvetica indeed rocks!
It's a shame that my version of Word (2003) does not have Helvetica.
Greg J
MS ripped it off and renamed it Arial. It is 99.9% like Arial and they didn't want to pay licensing fees. I think that's what the movie is about too.
Helvetica is too ordinary. It renders okay in greyish on Apple sites, but in print... hey, Apress uses it for headings! They use the condensed variety I think. Can't blame them.
Dmitri Nesteruk
It is a bit plain jane due to overuse but it is a very readable font and to back up the "most widely used in advertising" comment - apple, cvs, american airlines, gap, jcpenny, american apparel, fifa, ups, and the list goes on...
Actually, MS didn't rip off Arial. Arial is actually a Monotype design which MS licensed for inclusion in Windows.
+1. Great movie; probably my favourite documentary film ever. :)
You will note (I hope) that the use of Helvetica in all caps looks awful compared to mixed-case. Also, Helvetica Narrow looks even worse.
Jason S
+3  A: 

In doing a bit more reading myself, here is another interesting study on it.

Text Font Readability Study

The author's conclusions -- Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

My readers clearly prefer sans serif fonts to serif fonts for body text. Therefore, in my HTML e-mail newsletters -- and on my websites -- I am moving toward 12 pt. Arial for body text, and Verdana for 10 pt. and 9 p. fonts. I haven't done adequate studies comparing Georgia against Verdana for readability, but since Georgia isn't as widely installed as Verdana, I plan to stick with Verdana. For headlines I'll continue to use larger bold Verdana fonts.

Greg J

Helvetica was already suggested!

Worth mentioning are also the Frutiger fonts by Adrian Frutiger!

As to the question of sans serif for web I think there are cases where serif for titles can be very nice! Renowned agencies use them more often again.


Sans Serif all the way!

In the order of preference: Frutiger, Helvetica, Vardana, Arial.

I personally never liked serifed fonts but if I had to I would use either Lucida or Garamond.

Another favourite of mine is Monotype Prestige Elite -- its the most "typewritery" of the monospaced fonts.

Anadale mono is by far the best fort for code samples, its monospaced and has the clearest distintion between the various parenthesis characters ([{"''"}]).

James Anderson
+11  A: 

Read this if you're looking for a summary of a lot of the linked articles. No plagarism, only regurgitation of info.

For print, there's so many fonts. Helvetica is the most popular and one of the more "readable". However a variety of fonts all look really nice, serifs like Bodoni to sans-serifs like Letter Gothic, Futura, or Knockout.

On the screen, fonts with wider letters and a more generous x-height tend to be easier to read. That said, fonts like Verdana are a bit too plain at larger sizes. Helvetica is a great workhorse font for print, as are Frutiger and Univers, but Windows machines most likely lack this font. At small sizes Arial is a poor substitute for Helvetica because of its seemingly narrow letters (due to pixel restrictions), but kern (letter-spacing) it a little tighter at 16px+ sizes and make it bold, and it suddenly will become very usable, especially for building a strong grid. A font with some quirks is always nice and interesting visually, like Trebuchet MS (see the header of this page). These fonts too, have a low x-height and aren't as visually 'clean' to read through.

The solution is Lucida Grande: functional and quirky enough to look "different." Its Windows counterpart is Lucida Sans and Lucida Sans Unicode, which should be on more Windows machines anyway, more than the new Microsoft fonts like Calibri, etc. You'll find that both Windows fonts are needed, Sans looks right with bold text and some sizes, and Unicode looks right with the rest. I think this is the font to use mainly to make long body text look less boring, since it gets tricky to use at various sizes and weights.

Also, from a developer's standpoint, there is nothing as beautiful and functional as a nice monospace font. So it really depends on your content, since if you have a load of copy to fit into a defined area you're better off with Arial. But sites these days see so much Arial being used. Lucida Grande / Sans Unicode is hands down a better font. It's always a good idea to have a pair of complementary fonts, so use a serif font like Georgia (the web's workhorse) and play around with the upper-casing and letter-spacing too.

Why is it hands down a better font?
@Wahnfrieden Lucida Grande is the font that is used on most of Facebook. also uses it for their body text. In general, it looks more "open" and less boring than Arial. More technically, Lucida Grande does not look as rigid and geometric a serif font as Helvetica or Arial, and has some "humanist" qualities that make it look more round and "personable." I suck at explaining fonts and studied more typography than I actually apply these days... But my two cents. It definitely has the balance of being clean but also "stylish" compared with the limited selection of other web fonts.

Not real scientific, but my general preferences are:

Georgia (or other serif fonts) for long runs of text like the body of a document. Even if the "flowing text" studies are questionable, the vast majority of books seems to use serif fonts. (Exception: For small fonts on small DPI displays, the legibility of Verdana may outweigh the benefits of serifs.)

Helvetica (or other sans serif fonts) for short bursts of text like titles, captions, or road signs.

Consolas (or other fixed width font) for short bursts of user input like a website's check-out forms. The more obvious distinctions between each character may help reduce typos.

C. Dragon 76
+4  A: 
  • For web - Geordia as serif, Calibri as sans
  • For print - Sabon Next + Syntax
  • For code - Consolas, hands down
  • For brochures - Gill Sans + Perpetua
  • For presentations - unequivocally Myriad Pro
Dmitri Nesteruk
I have to admit Consolas is amazing, and I've moved to it from Envy Code R and ProFont (but still use ProFont when I want 9pt)
Camilo Martin
Also, +1 for your answer being very objective and usable.
Camilo Martin

For any kind of documentation or written correspondence I use Georgia and Verdana since they were specifically designed for the screen.

Eric Ness

For the main body of a text, I'd use a serif font (sans serif on paper tend to get tiring) and my personal preference is Goudy Old Style

+2  A: 

I use Tahoma. For everything. All the time. I will in fact be naming my next child Tahoma.

+1 for the sense of humor!
Camilo Martin

I prefer Inconsolata for monospaced text. It looks beautiful.


Here is the selection I made by extensive research on the web. These fonts are available for free to Windows Vista users, but not necessarily limited to them.

Segoe UI in Vista and Office 2007

Frutiger Linotype comes free with Microsoft Reader

DejaVu Sans download from Sourceforge

Constantia in Vista

font-family: Verdana,Tahoma,Georgia,Arial,"Times New Roman";

Verdana and Tahoma are "fairly" close to fixed width fonts and have solid readability to me. The trade of being they tend to be wider and take more space.

Verdana and Arial have very different optimal point sizes. And why only quotes on Arial?
Camilo Martin
The quotes were off. They should only be on fonts that have spaces/multiple words in their name.

This study puts Verdana on top for reading speed, comprehension and appreciation. It doesn't compare with Microsoft's new Clear type fonts though, just the traditional ones.

Kevin Coulombe

i've always like Helvetica myself for titles and then something like garamond for the content, newspaper style.

really depends on what your building and what medium it'll be on, whether it's something short or a massive technical document.

also layout plays a big factor in readability, if you have long lines of text the eye is going to have trouble following it, better to break the sections out to aid readability and enjoyment; a lot you can learn from the common newspaper.

worth watching

John Antoni Griffiths

I am personally a fan of Computer Modern (the font that LaTeX documents are typeset in by default). Maybe it's the formatting that LaTeX does, but I find such documents to be extremely readable and nice looking.

For monospace fonts, I am liking the Menlo font that comes with Mac OS X Snow Leopard.



In my opinion, the most legible font ever, and in the top ten most stylish.

Now if it only had a better name...