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I was browsing around on linotype.com when I came across Fairfield which I instantly fell in love with. I would seriously like to use Fairfield for almost everything I do (quite a bit of writing, not much design work) but I'm worried about the legibility.

Fairfield sample

To my eyes, Fairfield is no worse than many other common serif typefaces, such as Garamond, Sabon, Minion or Janson, yet it has a little character to it. Is Fairfield generally considered legible for most writing or does it have a little too much character for that and is better suited for design work?

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(I'm aware this might not be the perfect place to ask, but it was the first hit on Google for typography on SE.) –  kqr Dec 6 '13 at 19:44
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Legible for what? Can you give us some examples of jobs you might use it in, and the size(s) at which you want to set it? –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 6 '13 at 20:46
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Without context it's hard to know but my first thought is that it should be fine (depending on what it's used for) it doesn't seem any more difficult than Times New Roman but again depends on use. –  Jenna Dec 6 '13 at 20:53
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Can you read it? If so, yes. –  DA01 Dec 6 '13 at 22:25
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@kqr comic sans, actually, is quite readable in appropriate context. It's ugly and overused, but one can argue it's readable. Alas, while it's a valid question you are asking, there aren't necessarily valid universal answers. There's a lot of subjectivity. I'd argue that the typeface is certainly readable, but at smaller sizes, the more extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes gets to be a bit much on screen. –  DA01 Dec 6 '13 at 22:58
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For print use, it looks fairly legible to me. However, if you're using it for body text as a screen font, there are some possible issues. These don't necessarily rule it out as a screen font, but you should be aware of them:

  • In your screenshot, the hinting is poor, which is most noticeable in the bottom line. In combination with the thin horizontal serifs, this causes serifs to sometimes disappear. Notice that the top serifs are missing on the d, l, and is, and the left half of the bar of the t in "sit" is blurred out. For some reason, this is also a problem in the second line, with missing to-left serifs on r, m, and i. Missing serifs can impede legibility (since it doesn't have the accomodations that sans-serif fonts make), as well as leave ugly gaps.

    However, it's possible that you took that screenshot in a program that doesn't hint properly, and the actual font does have proper hinting.

  • In some of the styles, lowercase letters' ascenders are only slightly higher than capital letters:
    Il
    Screen fonts often slightly exaggerate the height of ascenders, which helps distinguish "l" (lowercase L) from "I" and "1".

  • The bowls of certain letters appear to have no overshoot, the bowls don't dip very far when they join the stem, and the serifs are perfectly horizontal. In combination, this means that with small fonts, the bowl could blend into the serif, as with the bold p (notice the top looks flat):
    p
    This is atypical and could potentially impede legibility.

(For headings, the font size is larger so these are not issues.)

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Thanks. I'm thinking I may want to set it at a slightly larger size anyway, because it is a small typeface compared to e.g. the Palatino clone I'm currently using. Your knowledge is valuable though, and I'm glad you shared! Do you know any material where I can read more about this stuff? I find it so fascinating! –  kqr Dec 7 '13 at 8:29
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