There seems to be a recent trend of digital typography getting bigger. For many of us, this is a pleasant evolution. Squinting to read 11-point body copy on eight-page articles with 10-point sidebar captions turns too quickly into a great recipe for blood shot eyes and a headache.
But if reading this tiny type is so difficult, why was it used in the first place?
Until the past year, the number of us working on low resolution monitors offset the number of us on higher resolution displays. Of course this is no new trend. Technology gets better, as such it gets cheaper, and soon we’re all working on 20-inch monitors that cost only a few hundred dollars.
A few years ago the implications of small displays (small web browsers) forced designers and developers to work within a standard site width of 800 pixels. And not even a few years before that the standard was 640 pixels.
Yet all of our considerations were the same then as they are now. Keep as much “above the fold” as possible, make sure the vertical length of the page doesn’t go on for decades, and try not to push content too far away from navigation. This often led to 11-point body copy—less than desirable, but necessary. Fit your country estate in your new york apartment, or better yet, into your 20-foot sail boat.
When you have 1000 pixels to work with, like we now do , options grow quickly. Three-, four- or even five-column sites with 12-point body copy are no longer impossible. Sites like nytimes.com and designobserver.com are able to push seven to 10 interest items above the fold, including photography and sponsor ads.
Some sites are even increasing body copy to 13- 15-point type with lovely open leading (line spacing). Here you can see the folks at Contrast making great use of large body copy and spacey leading for both their main column and sidebar. Good.is redesigned their site a few months ago and happily stuck to their large, body-copy filled two columns—and for the most part (on a site that requires lots of reading) just about all their copy is over 12pts.
This may not qualify as front page (or homepage material), but in the world of the web, as we all read more and more and more on our screens, bigger type means more accessibility and ease of use. Even subconsciously, that larger type size may mean fewer stops to the newsstand and a second look at that tablet.