Designing the smallest legible screen font

Computers & Mobile Craft & Design
Designing the smallest legible screen font

Legibility, of course, is a matter of degree, but given that NYU computer science professor Ken Perlin’s tiny font can fit 500 words into a 320 x 240 pixel rectangle, I am surprised at how readable it remains. “My design,” he explains, “assumes that screen pixels are horizontal striped as RGBRGB, as are most LCD screens these days.”


8 thoughts on “Designing the smallest legible screen font

  1. Simon says:

    Will have to try this at work on my LCDs because it’s unreadable at home on my old 21 inch HP Trinitron CRT running 1600 by 1200. When LCDs became more prevalent the advances in screen resolution seemed to drop off a lot from the old CRT days.

  2. Simon says:

    Well, it’s more readable on my 1280 by 800 LCDs at work. Pity I don’t have anything with a 320×240 screen to see how well it works at the target size!

  3. says:

    Perhaps I’m spoiled by the possibility to always turn off ClearType, antialiasing and similar things that are harmful most of the time.

    But if I take this mediocre example and sharpen it generously, then it becomes almost normal. Perhaps a carefully designed _raster_ font with these outlines is a good idea. A vector one, not. Is it possible for the end user to turn sub-pixel font rendering off, anyway?

  4. Bangon Kali says:

    Is it that my eyes aren’t really that good, or the monitor resolution’s quite maxed up, is it because it lost some quality after being converted to JPG, or is the font really too small? I’m confused because I can’t read it.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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