Space-saving sans-serif for body copy

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Cii's picture
Joined: 21 Apr 2010 - 11:58pm
Space-saving sans-serif for body copy

I've been tasked with unifying a bunch of different products into one large book.

Problem #1: The body copy on most of the products is sans-serif so the boss wants to keep all of the body copy as sans-serif. I've tried Trade Gothic, Frutiger, Avant Garde, Franklin Gothic, Futuri, Avenir Next, and Univers and they are all difficult to read in my opinion.

Problem #2: There are some pages that have plenty of space and not that much text, but there are also pages that are FULL of text so I need a typeface that I can set at small sizes and tight leading and still be readable. Maybe a typeface with a condensed option in addition to the normal weight?

Problem #3: This product is also "reproduceable" so I need a typeface that is still readable on black and white copies.

Is this is even feasible? If I can get my company to pay for them, what do you think about using FF Legato, Sensibility, or Whitney?


Bob Evans's picture
Joined: 18 May 2005 - 7:20am

I think Sensibilty Sans is good and not over used.

James Montalbano's picture
Joined: 18 Jun 2003 - 11:00am
Cory Maylett's picture
Joined: 18 Jan 2007 - 1:11am

"I've tried Trade Gothic, Frutiger, Avant Garde, Franklin Gothic, Futuri, Avenir Next, and Univers and they are all difficult to read in my opinion."

You named some typefaces that are highly readable as text, and you've listed some that are less so. I suspect that you might think that sans-serif text, in general, is less legible than serif text, which can be debated from both pro and con points of view.

Still, unless you're designing something for yourself, your opinions on readability should take a back seat to the target audience's opinions. Of course you can't really survey them all to find their preferences, but people tend to think that the typefaces they're most familiar with are most readable. So if you want to play it safe, you might consider using a common, all-purpose, generic sans-serif, like Helvetica or Myriad.

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm

FF Legato reads very nicely for a sans in my experience. It’s not particularly “space-saving” but it’s relatively heavy, so you should be able to set it a little smaller. I haven’t used the other ones you mention.

Peiran Tan's picture
Joined: 11 Dec 2012 - 2:51am

Myriad has a condensed version.

Donald H. Tucker's picture
Joined: 13 Dec 2012 - 3:47pm

An often overlooked factor is the is the confusion between _1_, _l_ and _I_ in many sans-serif fonts. I would suggest that for body copy you avoid fonts where you cannot tell them apart except by context.
I find Tang to be very readable as, even at very small point sizes, perhaps partly because of the use of ink traps as a design feature. Seven weights 22 variants. Check particularly the book and book small caps.

Robert McConnell's picture
Joined: 24 Oct 2012 - 7:05pm

You could try ITC Officina Sans -- this passes the 1/I/l test, and it's been expressly designed to save space and hold up well under poor printing conditions while simultaneously being easy to read at small sizes.

Axel is also very similar to -- albeit narrower than -- Officina.