Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet Burlingame, A New Font for Auto Digital Displays

In auto design and technology, there has been a very bad clash between form and function.  The boxy, masculine, futuristic Eurostile font and its variants has emerged as the cutting-edge, stylish font for an auto's digital displays on the dashboard and accessories like climate controls and stereos. Unfortunately, the squared-off, stylized letters and numbers of Eurostile end up being too alike and interchangeable to make them fast and easy to read correctly on the road("3", "B" and "8" are practically indistinguishable).

After a study of readability in auto digital displays, Monotype has designed a new font from the ground up to lessen the time needed to correctly read dashboard data. After the attributes needed to optimize readability were built in, designers worked to make the font attractive as well, and came up with the new Burlingame typeface.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Fast Company

Link to article:
Introducing Burlingame, A Safer Font for Your Dashboard

Excerpt: "Font designers had ideas and hypotheses for what makes a font legible, but never before had their theories been tested. 'Truthfully there haven't been any good scientific studies to prove what we consider our trade craft, our intuition as designers that makes things legible,' Steve Matteson, creative type director at Monotype, who took part in the MIT AgeLab study, told Fast Company. 'We worked with MIT to basically test typefaces side by side to figure out which ones were legible and try to figure out why they are legible.'

The study compared 'humanist' typefaces with 'grotesque' style typefaces. The former fonts, in general, have looser spacing, unambiguous forms, and open apertures, which are the partially enclosed, rounded negative space letters like 'n' and 'c.' The Mac menu's Lucida Sans typeface and Microsoft Outlook's default Calibri font both fall into that camp. Grotesque fonts tend to be more modular and blockier. Along with Eurostile, the beloved Helvetica is a classic example. Matteson figured that looser, more open, and what happen to be the less fashionable fonts would prove easier to read.

For male study participants, the humanist fonts resulted in a 10.6% lower visual demand as measured by total glance time, compared to the 'square grotesque' typeface. The humanist font also resulted in a 13% improvement in overall response time. The impact wasn't statistically significant for women. But, still, researchers said anything about a 5% change in behaviors would prove meaningful. "It was great to have a scientific study that was very well controlled to back up what we as type designers knew," Matteson said.

With the stats to back up Matteson's theories for legibility, he and Crossgrove set out to make the most readable font possible. "We realized that with this study it was really crucial that the most important thing wasn't aesthetics. It was just getting that glance time down.' explained Crossgrove. 'So we pushed the design of Burlingame in the direction of all of those traits that we know are useful for speeding up letter recognition and word recognition.'

Burlingame has open apertures, loose letter spacing, and unambiguous shapes. For example, the lowercase 'L' is differentiated from the uppercase 'i' by adding an 'out stroke,' or little tail at the end. The font also uses the less ambiguous two-story 'a,' even in italics, because it helps distinguish the letter from 'q' and 'g.' Similar theories of spacing and legibility have been used to design highway signs."

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