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Outdoor First provides research-based readability assessments of your creative prior to production.

Legibility Factors

For easiest legibility at a distance, the research indicates that the width of a letter's vertical strokes should be about one-fifth its height. Horizontal strokes may be slightly thinner. These proportions apply equally to capital and lower-case letters.

Letter Spacing - The example to our right demonstrates the importance of a reasonable amount of air between letters. Extremely close spacing can reduce legibility, even with a clean, gothic typeface.


Perspective - The legibility problem created by tight letter spacing is compounded when copy lines are viewed from an angle, which can occur in Outdoor. Condensed typefaces start to resemble picket fences and horizontal strokes tend to appear thicker in relationships to the vertical strokes.

Notice how crowding can confuse the intention of the copy by causing certain letters to attach visually to adjacent letters, thus "clear morn" could be interpreted as "dear mom."


Stacking - This reduces readability and is not recommended for Outdoor design. With a single horizontal line of copy, the eye moves through the message rapidly and without interruption. The stacking of additional lines reduces this facility and increases the time needed to comprehend the message. If, however, stacking is necessary for layout purposes, give careful consideration to line spacing.


Line Spacing - As in the case of letter spacing, adequate line space is necessary for maximum legibility. If a copy line is riding "piggyback" on the copy line below it, the interplay of descenders and ascenders creates confusion.

Line Spacing

Common Mistakes

Crowding too many letters into a space tends to repel the eye and thus defeats the objective of getting type as large as possible.


Too great a contrast between thick and thin elements leads to confusion, and loss of identity of basic shapes and letters.


Script and similar styles sacrifice the letters basic shape for the decorative aspect, and therefore individual letters cannot be identified.


Strokes which are too fine fade into the background and become invisible at a distance.


Bulky typefaces become blobs at a distance, basic shapes cannot be distinguished, and letters are not recognizable.

Outdoor First, Inc.