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Perceived Legibility and
Aesthetic Pleasingness
of Light and Ultralight
Fonts
Tatiana Zlokazova1
Ivan Burmistrov1,2
1 Lomonosov Moscow State University
Russia
2 interUX Usability Engineering Studio
Estonia
Motivation of study
 Use of low-weight fonts – light and ultralight
fonts – became the new norm in UI design
 Also, light and ultralight fonts are often
combined with low text-to-background
contrast and negative polarity
 However, new typographic aesthetics was not
supported by any empirical research
 Nobody asked users about their attitudes to
the new trends in type design
 This trend can be seen as only a fashion
Our research
Two empirical studies (2016-2017):
 objective legibility measures like performance,
saccadic amplitude and fixation duration
(Burmistrov, Zlokazova, Ishmuratova, Semenova
2016)
 subjective perception of font legibility and
aesthetic pleasingness: present study
Factors in both studies
 Font weight (Helvetica Neue family):
ultralight ▪ light ▪ normal ▪ bold
 Text-to-background contrast:
low ▪ high
 Text-to-background polarity:
▪
 4×2×2 = 16 combinations
positive negative
Objective data
The lower fixation
duration, the
better legibility.
Normal font is the
best, light and
ultralight fonts are
less legible than
normal and bold.
Objectively measured legibility
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
Ultralight Light Normal Bold
Fixationduration(ms)
Subjective data
Stimuli
Task for study participants
 pairwise comparison of 16 stimuli:
 120 pairwise comparisons within each of two
series:
 evaluation of text legibility
 evaluation of text pleasingness
Instruction
To provide comparability with classic research
(Tinker & Paterson 1942):
 legibility was defined as “ease and speed of
reading”
 no specific definition was provided for
“pleasingness”
Participants
 63 volunteers
 21 male, 42 female
 19-68 years old (mean: 39.0)
Data analysis
 Preference score for each stimulus was
calculated as a sum of its selections in each
series (Grobelny & Michalski 2015)
 Preference scores ranged 0 ÷ 15:
 0 – if a stimulus lost in all pairwise comparisons
 15 – if a stimulus won in all comparisons
 4×2×2 ANCOVA with repeated measures (using
age as a covariate)
 paired-samples Wilcoxon signed-rank test
Results
Normal is the best.
Ultralight is the
worst.
Legibility of bold
almost the same as
of normal.
Pleasingness of bold
almost the same as
of light.
Effect of font weight
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Ultralight Light Normal Bold
Legibility
Pleasingness
Preferencescore
Interactions between factors
Legibility: weight × contrast × polarity:
 Under low contrast and negative polarity all font variations
showed significantly lower subjective rates of legibility
 The decrement of legibility scores under these conditions
was more expressed for ultralight and light fonts
Pleasingness: weight × contrast:
 Under low contrast condition all font types showed
significantly lower subjective rates of pleasingness
 The decrement of pleasingness scores under low contrast
condition was more expressed for ultralight and light fonts
Age differences:
younger vs older users
Comparison of two age groups
It is known that younger users may perceive
fashionable user interfaces more positively than
older users (Meyer 2016)
vs 45-68 yo
(23 users)
19-30 yo
(19 users)
No significant
differences
Subjectively perceived legibility
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Ultralight Light Normal Bold
Younger
Older
Legibilityscore
The only significant
difference: younger
users perceived
ultralight font more
positively than older
users
…but still rated it as
significantly less
pleasing than other
font variations
Subjectively perceived pleasingness
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Ultralight Light Normal Bold
Younger
Older
Pleasingnessscore
Recommendations
 Ultralight fonts for body text should be avoided
under any of the investigated conditions
 Negative polarity and low contrast conditions
should be avoided for light fonts as there is a
prominent negative effect on text legibility and
pleasingness scores
 Limitation of our study: the situation may be
different in case of large font sizes – such as
headings
References
 Burmistrov I., Zlokazova T., Ishmuratova I., Semenova M. (2016) Legibility
of light and ultra-light fonts: Eyetracking study, Proceedings of the 9th
Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI ’16), New
York: ACM, Article 110 | DOI: 10.1145/2971485.2996745
 Grobelny J., Michalski R. (2015) The role of background color, interletter
spacing, and font size on preferences in the digital presentation of a
product, Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 85-100 | DOI:
10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.036
 Meyer K. (2016) Young adults appreciate flat design more than their
parents do | Link
 Tinker M. A., Paterson D. G. (1942) Reader preferences and typography,
Journal of Applied Psychology, 26 (1), 38-40 | DOI: 10.1037/h0061105
Thank you!
Contact:
ivan@interux.com

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Perceived legibility and aesthetic pleasingness of light and ultralight fonts

  • 1. Perceived Legibility and Aesthetic Pleasingness of Light and Ultralight Fonts Tatiana Zlokazova1 Ivan Burmistrov1,2 1 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russia 2 interUX Usability Engineering Studio Estonia
  • 2. Motivation of study  Use of low-weight fonts – light and ultralight fonts – became the new norm in UI design  Also, light and ultralight fonts are often combined with low text-to-background contrast and negative polarity  However, new typographic aesthetics was not supported by any empirical research  Nobody asked users about their attitudes to the new trends in type design  This trend can be seen as only a fashion
  • 3. Our research Two empirical studies (2016-2017):  objective legibility measures like performance, saccadic amplitude and fixation duration (Burmistrov, Zlokazova, Ishmuratova, Semenova 2016)  subjective perception of font legibility and aesthetic pleasingness: present study
  • 4. Factors in both studies  Font weight (Helvetica Neue family): ultralight ▪ light ▪ normal ▪ bold  Text-to-background contrast: low ▪ high  Text-to-background polarity: ▪  4×2×2 = 16 combinations positive negative
  • 6. The lower fixation duration, the better legibility. Normal font is the best, light and ultralight fonts are less legible than normal and bold. Objectively measured legibility 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 Ultralight Light Normal Bold Fixationduration(ms)
  • 9. Task for study participants  pairwise comparison of 16 stimuli:  120 pairwise comparisons within each of two series:  evaluation of text legibility  evaluation of text pleasingness
  • 10. Instruction To provide comparability with classic research (Tinker & Paterson 1942):  legibility was defined as “ease and speed of reading”  no specific definition was provided for “pleasingness”
  • 11. Participants  63 volunteers  21 male, 42 female  19-68 years old (mean: 39.0)
  • 12. Data analysis  Preference score for each stimulus was calculated as a sum of its selections in each series (Grobelny & Michalski 2015)  Preference scores ranged 0 ÷ 15:  0 – if a stimulus lost in all pairwise comparisons  15 – if a stimulus won in all comparisons  4×2×2 ANCOVA with repeated measures (using age as a covariate)  paired-samples Wilcoxon signed-rank test
  • 14. Normal is the best. Ultralight is the worst. Legibility of bold almost the same as of normal. Pleasingness of bold almost the same as of light. Effect of font weight 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Ultralight Light Normal Bold Legibility Pleasingness Preferencescore
  • 15. Interactions between factors Legibility: weight × contrast × polarity:  Under low contrast and negative polarity all font variations showed significantly lower subjective rates of legibility  The decrement of legibility scores under these conditions was more expressed for ultralight and light fonts Pleasingness: weight × contrast:  Under low contrast condition all font types showed significantly lower subjective rates of pleasingness  The decrement of pleasingness scores under low contrast condition was more expressed for ultralight and light fonts
  • 17. Comparison of two age groups It is known that younger users may perceive fashionable user interfaces more positively than older users (Meyer 2016) vs 45-68 yo (23 users) 19-30 yo (19 users)
  • 18. No significant differences Subjectively perceived legibility 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Ultralight Light Normal Bold Younger Older Legibilityscore
  • 19. The only significant difference: younger users perceived ultralight font more positively than older users …but still rated it as significantly less pleasing than other font variations Subjectively perceived pleasingness 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Ultralight Light Normal Bold Younger Older Pleasingnessscore
  • 20. Recommendations  Ultralight fonts for body text should be avoided under any of the investigated conditions  Negative polarity and low contrast conditions should be avoided for light fonts as there is a prominent negative effect on text legibility and pleasingness scores  Limitation of our study: the situation may be different in case of large font sizes – such as headings
  • 21. References  Burmistrov I., Zlokazova T., Ishmuratova I., Semenova M. (2016) Legibility of light and ultra-light fonts: Eyetracking study, Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI ’16), New York: ACM, Article 110 | DOI: 10.1145/2971485.2996745  Grobelny J., Michalski R. (2015) The role of background color, interletter spacing, and font size on preferences in the digital presentation of a product, Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 85-100 | DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.036  Meyer K. (2016) Young adults appreciate flat design more than their parents do | Link  Tinker M. A., Paterson D. G. (1942) Reader preferences and typography, Journal of Applied Psychology, 26 (1), 38-40 | DOI: 10.1037/h0061105