[texhax] Curious: TeX and Sustainable Trail Design

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Wed Oct 30 02:09:42 CET 2013

On 2013-10-28 at 20:31:32 -0600, ghaverla wrote:

 > It was news to me that "sans serif" is defined by the width of an
 > uppercase "O" relative to the height of an uppercase "I".  I always
 > thought it was based on the lack of "decorations" on glyphs.

I wouldn't call serifs "decorations".  They serve two purposes:  

  1. They make the narrow glyphs (I, i, l) wider without inserting too
     much white space.  Consider the word "milliliter" typeset with a
     sans-serif font.

  2. Only the serifs allow you to distinguish between an uppercase "i"
     and a lowercase "L".  There are very few fonts which don't have
     this problem.  Their lowercase "L" has a bow at the bottom.  An
     example is Optima Nova.  Hermann Zapf said that without the bow
     one could associate the first 3 glyphs of the word "Illinois"
     with a Roman number... :)
 > I don't know about this spacing requirement in the context of
 > kerning.  And what happens with ligatures?

I'm convinced that if you have to worry about letter spacing at all
then you are simply using the wrong font.  Times Roman had been
designed in order to solve problems with linebreaks when text is
typeset in very narrow columns.  Hence it's extremely condensed and
shouldn't be used for anything else.

There are special fonts for signs:


Both are sans-serif but the latter one does not have the "Illinois
problem".  See also


and, of course:


 > I suspect line spacing can easily be adjusted, if it is different.

Yes, but the suggested 150% of fontsize is far too much.  TeX's
default is 120%.  But the most appropriate value always depends on the
actual font.  If you are using TeX for a while, you should be able to
judge yourself.

 > Sure, a person can probably cut letters out of 10+mm baltic birch
 > to produce the trail name and distance.  Are Helvetica and Times
 > Roman the two easiest fonts to read by touch?

Definitely not.  They obviously were proposed by a Microsoft Word user
who isn't aware of any other typefaces.  He first said

 >> Choose "sans serif" fonts [...]

and later he suggests Times Roman.  I have the impression that he
doesn't really know what he's talking about.  Everything he sais is
curious, as you already stated in the subject field of your mail. 


Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                              mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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