This weeks readings were a revelation in that I’d never really thought about type before. Obviously I knew that my Microsoft Word had multiple fonts, but I’d never really paid attention to them; if a professor didn’t specify a font I would just stick with the word processor’s default. Most of the time I couldn’t have even told you what font a paper was in when I turned it in. I’ve also been a “hard copy guy” for most of my career; to this day I still prefer whenever possible to do my reading and editing in actual print rather than on a computer screen.
So the various complications and intricacies of type on the web had never really occurred to me. I thought the readings from Ellen Lupton’s book were especially useful in providing a basic introduction and breakdown of factors to consider when choosing and employing type on the web. I can easily imagine myself having it open on my desktop (“hard copy” desktop that is) while I work on my on webpage designs during this class.
The most intriguing take away from this week’s reading however, came from the Morris article. The idea that choice of font could actually have a statistically meaningful impact on readers’ assessment of the believability of your content is amazing. I almost don’t believe it, but his article was in Times New Roman, so I guess I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It is clear from this article, and the others we read this week, that typography is a critical part of design and should be considered just as importantly as the overall layout when designing a webpage (or a paper…I guess my dissertation will either be in Georgia or Baskerville). This is not limited to font choice either, as both Lupton and Williams illustrate the importance of line spacing, alignment, size, and the differentiation between body and headings.
A secondary issue dealt with this week is the difficulty in applying footnotes on the web. While I agree completely with Dr. Petrik’s reasoning for the continued use of superscript notes, simply reproducing the form of print media on the web (with the notes at the bottom of the page) seems to fail to take advantage of the abilities inherent in the new medium of the web. Some form of navigation between note and body seems a better use of the web’s capabilities (otherwise just make it a downloadable PDF so guys like me can easily print it out). While jump navigation from the body to the note (as in Wikipedia) is one method, the use of pop-ups as recommended in Alan Jacobs article (and given as an example in Dr. Petrik’s) seems much more elegant. That said, I worry that a novice digital historian such as myself attempting this method could easily make enough errors to make this method more obscuring than user-friendly.
While I might not be ready to dive into pop-up footnotes or a statistical experiment to choose the font for my next paper/webpage, I will certainly pay a little more attention to my typographical choices than I have in the past.