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Difference Between Legibility and Readability

Legibility and Readability

Typography is a crucial aspect of effective brand communication, especially on the World Wide Web, where people have short attention spans. This implies that the copy on your page must be legible and readable. But most people, especially newbie designers or creative professionals, often wonder if there is any difference between legibility and readability. Many of the articles on the internet these days use the terms interchangeably, and this makes a lot of people believe that the words – or design elements – have the same meaning. In this article, you will learn the difference between Legibility and Readability as well as the importance of these elements in Design. And so, without further ado, let’s get started!

There are two primary functions of typefaces which must be in place to communicate any message:

  • They must be easy to read
  • They must be able to get hold of the attention of the reader and also keep them interested for long

The first function has to do with legibility, while the second is about readability. The former is a function of typeface design, and the latter a function of how those typefaces are used. Legibility and Readability in Design are highly crucial and must not be taken lightly by any serious creative professional. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these design elements:


Legibility applies to letters, words, and paragraphs. It is a measure of how easy it is for you to be able to distinguish one alphabet from another in a particular typeface. This implies that you will be able to read the copy without any difficulty or squinting of your eyes, especially under typical reading situations. Keep in mind that most of the typefaces out there were designed to be used in different scenarios. For instance, Bell Centennial is the typeface that was commissioned in the ‘70s by AT&T and was primarily intended for use in telephone directories. At the time, most telephone directories were made with cheap paper. The Bell Centennial typeface was designed such that it would readily be agreeable to ink spread during printing processes. The first Garamond typeface was created so that it can be legible when it is printed in a large body of text. Some design historians speculate that this typeface was good at conserving ink usage since it was the most environmentally-friendly font at the time. Some typefaces have also been created for use on digital devices, two of which are Verdana and Georgia. The perfect font for reading text on a screen without squinting your eyes is Azura. Reading legible typefaces is effortless and fosters communication. The opposite – i.e., the illegible type – present untold barriers to effective communication.

Text Type and Legibility

To make text type more legible – since that is legibility’s job – the following has to be observed:

  • Choose and use only medium weight fonts: Since light and bold fonts will be somewhat harder to read, make use of standard or regular weight fonts.
  • The text must have an adequate column width and size: The ideal measure you should always keep in mind is between 50-65 characters per line and 13px-15px font size
  • Do not draw undue attention to your type decisions.
  • Is the typeface for body text or display text? Choose your typeface accordingly
  • Serif typefaces are much more legible when used for body text compared with their sans-serif counterparts


Readability, on the other hand, is the relative arrangement of blocks of text or group of words such that they become very accessible. The idea behind this element is to minimize the effort that is required to read a block of text.

So, what points should you bear in mind when considering readability?

  • Font size: This refers to the size of the typeface used in a text. The best size for mobile display is 12px
  • Line height: This refers to the distance between two lines of words or text. The block of text shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. The ideal measurement for a block of text is between 1.2 to 1.5.
  • Contrast: This refers to the change in the thickness of the stroke in different parts of the alphabet. The higher the contrast, the higher the change in stroke. For long bodies of text, therefore, use medium to low contrast typefaces.
  • Line length: This refers to the average number of characters in one line of text. When the line length is large, it may hamper readability, thereby making it difficult for readers to scan the text. Therefore, you should always have approximately 45-75 characters in a line of text. This is optimal for a block of text.

You have to increase the line length beyond that number, and also increase the line-height as well as this will allow for more space between the two lines of words or text.


Legibility and readability sound like they should be the same, but they are not. But keep in mind that there aren’t any rules set in stone as regards any of the factors described above. They are nothing more than guidelines that will ensure your designs are read and understood by viewers. The guidelines will also help to develop your typographic eye, thus making it much better than it is.