Eek! I just downloaded and installed IE 5.2 for OS X, which counts among its improvements “support for the new Quartz text smoothing feature.” And boy, do things look smooth. I’m deeply unsure how I feel about this. For those of you* who don’t/can’t use IE 5.2 (and good for you), here’s a screenshot of the Quartz-ed up site.

What do you think? I’m thinking I may have to sans-serifize things or risk looking too much like a word-processed church newsletter.

*This assumes, of course, that there is someone out there. Which there is… Right?


  1. It seems to be mandatory in blogland that whenever a host suggests changing the look of a site, the peanut gallery hollers “No!” So even though your site’s only been up a short while, here is the requisite “No, I like it the way it is!”

    By way of explanation, an analogy: direct-mail companies have learned that, for unknown reasons, their junk mail gets more responses if they use low-tech-looking Courier, rather than the professional, typset look of New Century Schoolbook or Times Roman. Why? Unclear–but there seems to be something more personal and inviting about the less-polished typeface. In short, I find your current look more readable and inviting. But if forced to adjust, I will.

  2. Hey, thanks for the response, mariah. I’m still pretty weirded out by the smooth factor, though I’m adjusting to it. (I also ran the service update for Office, which similarly Quartzes up your fonts in Word, Excel, etc. And that’s even weirder, so by contrast, this is starting to look kinda normal.)

    I suppose I’m just so used to seeing pixilated screen fonts that this smoothed-out stuff eerily reduces the mediation I’m used to the machine providing. Pixilated Arial, or Verdana, or Times-Roman was a sign that I was working on a machine, a powerful electronic machine, which was always reminding me that what I saw on the screen was an imaginary representation of the document that the computer could, through its interaction with my printer, produce. Now, with this (imperfect, but closer to) letter-quality stuff onscreen, not to mention the strange flatness of OS X’s white screens — well, it’s like WYSIWYG-squared, like the imaginary aspect of the document on-screen is gone, like I’m working right on paper.

    Either that, or the mediation is so heightened until it’s a little like working in a cartoon universe.

    I dunno.

  3. Hmm, you’ve struck a chord here – this is the most unresolved issue in the world for web designers.

    As far as I can tell – and i’ve studied this up quite a bit – aliased text (the smooth stuff) was developed for print, where very fine printer resolutions reign. Quartzified text, like other screen-based text, still relies on your monitor, your screen resolution, and basically how your OS inteprets pixel size. So aliasing, or quartzifying, is still all relative.

    In terms of online legibility of big chunks of text, I like to use this short-hand rule for gross design – san serif works well on emitted light (as in for a monitor) and serifs look okay printed. Why does this work? Well, because if you’re working with inks with physical properties, you tend to lose the “ends” of the letters – a little serif is great at delineating the shape of the letter via enhanced contrast. When the monitor is simply beaming light at your eye, you don’t have “ink loss” – ie. the contrast of the font is inherent.

    I’m rambling b/c it’s about 4 million degrees here, but whatever you decide on, try adding a little vertical height to your base text – if you’re using a 12 px font, try it w/ a 16 px line height.

    You might also want to experiment w/ other carbonized browsers – I like OmniWeb just fine. But I prefer my text plain.

    And PS – you’re so right in regards to cheap sushi!

  4. Aha–my mistake: I thought that the screen capture was the shape of things to come, not the shape of that which is. Does that mean we on the planet of low-tech get to keep our pixilated fonts–to live in obsolete obsolescence?

    I am approaching onscreen letter-quality type warily. Some typefaces that were designed with inkspread in mind–the softening and thickening of edges and serifs when the ink is put on paper–don’t translate well to the screen. Reading them makes me feel like I’m shaking hands with a pod person–there’s something not quite right about him. Something akin to your cartoon universe, perhaps?

    Then again, reading a well-done typeface onscreen can startle me–make me feel like the person on the other end of the phone line just appeared behind my shoulder in my living room. Disorienting, but I’ll get used to it eventually. Is it wrong to be fond of the pixilated font’s overt, visual representation of mediation?

    Thanks for providing a forum for me to hold forth on typefaces. For some strange reason, nobody at cocktail parties seems to want to hear me talk about it at length.

  5. Hmmm. bootsy, I think you’re right; the anti-aliased sans serifs look much better onscreen than do the anti-aliased serif fonts, which wind up having the opposite effect that the fonts intend (rather than the serif action lending a little graceful emphasis to letter-ends, instead they kinda disappear into the greys, being too small to have pixels of their own). I’m going to tinker, as you can tell. Thanks for the input — I understand the issue much better now!

    And yes, mariah, those less plagued than I by the threat of software obsolescence need not worry about these things for the moment.

    Oh, and P.S. — invite me to your next cocktail party, and we’ll talk typefaces to your heart’s content.

  6. Bootsy knows from her type design– ‘twas her Chanticleer-based design of our wedding invites that garner’d many an ooh and aah from guests and onlookers and support personnel.

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