The Liquid Crystal Goblet

A lot of people take reading on a computer screen for granted. Most don’t even notice the type, while others may think (if it were even to cross their minds for a fleeting second) that its just fonts, they come with my PC, they just work, probably made by some automatic process. This is actually far from the truth, but if we are doing our job well, then it’s not a bad reaction. We don’t want you to notice the type, we want you to read it.

The title of my post refers to a famous essay written by Beatrice Warde, called The Crystal Goblet. Her call for clarity is just as important today for reading on computer screens. In future posts, I will go into more details, a behind the scenes look at the “black art” of making your fonts invisible.

In the meantime, a picture speaks a thousand words!

btw. My name is Mike Duggan, from Dublin, Ireland, I have worked in the area of Screen Typography at Microsoft for about 15 years.


Edit: Update Image Reference

Comments (6)

  1. Rice Crispie says:

    "We don’t want you to notice the type, we want you to read it."


  2. leo says:

    I’m looking forward to reading text that I can actually see w/o putting on my glasses.

  3. mike says:

    Great job!

  4. Mud says:

    Just found your site – can’t wait for more.

  5. Goebbels says:

    You should qualify your statements with "on Windows". You could snap Verdana off a Mac without tuning and it wouldn’t look that shitty.

  6. asdf says:

    I personally think the aliased example is way more easily readable than the cleartype one. I can’t really explain why but I have a feeling it’s because there is a very sharp contrast between the black text and the white on the aliased example but the cleartype one has this distracting halo around each glyph.

    I also have a few nitpicks at aliased vs non-aliased examples:

    – You guys cheat by using larger font sizes. Verdana at 10pts is way too huge. I use 8pt text on 1280×1024 (GDI units set to 96dpi) and I’d think it’s less disingenuous to see examples do the same.
    – You turn nice skinny text into something that looks like it was bolded.

    This is probably why I enjoy aliased text so much; I have perfect vision and I want to cram as much text on the screen as possible (hell, my programming environment uses a 7 *pixel* tall Terminal font). I hope programmers and font designers still consider people like me when creating fonts and font rendering functions.