An Analysis of Web Typography

From its inception, typography has been about designing for the medium. Hot metal types were designed to compensate for ink bleed in order to leave a clear impression on paper. When photographic composition replaced metal type in the 1970s, typographers found that the new technology reproduced the letterforms too exactly. The quirks of metal type design were no longer suitable.

Though the transition we're going through on the Web is more subtle, the principles are the same. Originally, web designers were forced to use fonts designed for the world of print. Arial, Helvetica and Times were the only options. Verdana and Georgia were both commissioned specifically for the limitations of the screen. When Microsoft released the typefaces in the late nineties, they quickly became the Web standard.

If modern browsers insist on smoothing body copy, one of two things need to happen. Either screen resolutions need to increase, or new typefaces need to be designed to be imminently readable when smoothed at 72dpi. Right now, Lucida Grande is the closest thing we have to a contender on the Macintosh.

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