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Trying to come up with the most legible sans-serif question mark for my Google reCAPTCHA's help icon. The ones that Google use are either too retro or too unreadable (below).

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I want a question mark that is so clear at such a tiny size, yet so similar to standard sans-serif that my users immediately will understand what it's about instead of getting hung up on the design itself. It should be aliased for maximum clarity. I've tried Miniml, redrawing Helvetica etc., but I just can't come up with one that feels right.

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The thing is I needed a better question mark altogether. It also had to be aliased. So I came up with this. Still not fully content, but I'll do for now.

enter image description here

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I found that just by changing two pixels in the middle of the second image to white, I could make it a lot more clear:

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Here they are at normal size:

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It's definitely a little better. So, you might do well just by scaling down Helvetica and then zooming in all the way to see what's making it fuzzy, and then fixing it from there. I didn't spend a lot of time, but here's my attempt to do it with Arial. The first one is just Arial Bold set at 8pt and anti-aliased as Strong, and the second was me playing with it just a little:

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In conclusion, my answer is stick with the font you want to use, but get down into the pixel level and make it work for you!

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+1, nice approach. Another thing to add: it's a question mark with an odd number of pixels in a circle that is an even number of pixels wide, so it feels a little miss-aligned and isn't making the best possible use of the space. I'd suggest scaling the circle up or down 1px then centring the question mark, or maybe scaling the question mark up slightly until it's 4 strong pixels wide. –  user568458 Feb 1 '13 at 15:32
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Yeah, good point. I was thinking about stretching the font to make it a bit wider too, but scaling and/or changing the circle would be better. –  Brendan Feb 1 '13 at 15:39
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