Reasons for and against Courier?

Subject: Reasons for and against Courier?
From: "Geoff Hart" <Geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1999 09:44:07 -0400

Teri Ward is <<...working on a project where the customer wants
an old, 1000-page document updated. The document is so old it's
formatted in Courier, and this is the font the Customer wants me to
use on the _new_ document. She believes that Courier is
eminently readable and the best choice of fonts. Help! >>

There's no question that at least for me, Courier isn't as readable
as a highly legible serif, proportional typeface like Times or
Garamond. But let's face it: Courier was a standard font for many
years, and people read it with little or any difficulty. And if you have
an audience that has acquired considerable familiarity and skill
with Courier, it may even be (arguably) a good font choice.

That being said, I think we're in agreement that there are many
much more legible typefaces. The easiest way to make your case
is to present a series of options: lay out samples of one page of
the document in Courier, Times, and (say) a dozen other
typefaces. You can even throw in a few that resemble Courier, but
that have been updated to improve legibility; one that I recall is
named "American Typewriter", and though it's visually similar, it
reads much better. Not as well as Times, say, but if you absolutely
can't persuade your client, it may be a decent compromise.

It's quite likely that by providing a range of alternatives and asking
the client which they prefer, you'll make your point fairly
convincingly without forcing the person to swallow their pride, admit
they were wrong, and lose face to you. (In fact, if the person isn't
really a typographer and you provide a range of alternatives that
include similar but better fonts, they may not even be able to pick
Courier out of the pack. I've seen that happen before!)

One thing I wouldn't recommend doing: fudging the test by
creating a really appalling use of Courier (bad tracking, bad
leading, bad type size, bad justification). That may make your
point for you, but apart from the ethics of the situation, if the
client catches you doing this, you've lost your credibility and
may have a hard time getting it back. Worse yet, what if the
person decides they love that design, and insist that you
standardize on it? <g>

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all those sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I
that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence." George Miller, "The Magical Number Seven" (1956)

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