Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Typography design' query

typography judging panel

Dave from British Columbia asks...
...I just had a Corel advertisement pop up on my interested and started reading, which lead to a link to your company and you, being the designer. I don't want to waste your time, but I've been trying to search for an answer to a 'design' query that has been bothering me for a long time. Your company has been designated as one of the best in the country for design, so I am approaching you and putting my trust in your knowledge and experience. I read that your company diversifies, and includes signage as well as smaller forms of advertising.
I am one of the designers for a sign company in Oliver, BC. and we often have requests for billboards, sometimes a large as 10 feet x 32 feet, which are viewed from a considerable distance, sometimes 500 ft - 800 ft away. Can you tell me if you've ever come across a definite design rule, that states whether CAPITAL letters are more legible from a distance as opposed to Upper and Lower Case letters used in conjunction with each other? A lot of the time I believe capital letters have been used with false understanding, just because they are all larger in height, yet they are all square in shape basically. I'm wondering, by contrast, if the diversity in shape of Upper and lower case letters produces more clarity? Do you know if there has in fact been any studies done on this? I hoping you can set me straight. I would like to offer my customers the best information I can muster so that I can effectively design their signage with better knowledge. I hope to hear your side of this, and perhaps you might even know of a 'source' of literature or web site to refer to on this question. I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Thanks Dave for the great question in response here is a thread to follow ...

from Typophile forum...

Not exactly billboard related, but road sign:
Response to follow once gordongroups esteemed panel of typographers give their rulings..Creative Director Leslie is proven that text set in upper and lowercase letters are easiest to read as our brain recognizes the shape of the word rather than reading each letter individually। Billboards are most often scanned quickly as the viewer passes by so it makes sense to make it as easy as possible to take in the message by setting text in upper and lowercase letters। An exception to this would be if there are only 2-3 words set in all caps to convey a particular tone...Senior Designer Kelly Read - Lyon I think the real issue is the amount of type you are using and how fast you need the viewer to understand it. Billboards usually need small amounts of type and fast comprehension. U & LC will always be easier and faster to read. Going with all caps in small doses can add impact though, should the design call for it (as Leslie says, 2–3 words or so).

I also don't think size of type or its distance from the viewer factors into the question of U & LC vs. caps. The designer should set the type at a size that is readable in either case, whether it's a billboard that is 800 ft. away or a printed piece that is 2 ft. away.

Thanks very much....that adds a lot of clarity to my 'mind' over this matter. Appreciate your time on this...the whole design crew.

Dave Veach
Graphic Designer
Outreach Neon Ltd.
Oliver, BC.,

the thread continues from TYPOPHILE a great forum for typographers ...

Not about the typography but the content:

6 words - 6 seconds

7 words - 7 seconds

That’s an old billboard design adage.




10.Dec.2009 6.30pm


When designing signs I find that lateral space is usually at more of a premium than vertical space for text.

All-caps, at the same nominal size might well be more legible, but U/C characters are generally wider and, excepting ascenders, taller and therefore occupy more area per glyph.

Try setting your text in upper and lower case, then all-caps at the same nominal size, then in upper and lower case, increasing the size until it is the same length as the upper case sample. Then walk away from your samples and see which one becomes unreadable first.



Paul Cutler

10.Dec.2009 6.40pm


Indeed russellm, when I’m doing billboards I print them out at tabloid size, tape them to a wall and get about 10-15 feet from them to judge legibility.



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