fonts and name tags

Have you ever experienced an event where people wore name tags with their name printed so small you had to come in such a close proximity to their chest with your nose that it was almost embarrassing. Even more embarrassing than the fact, you knew the person already and recognized their face but had forgotten their name? Well I attended such an event last night and decided to write this blog today, since I like my personal space and can’t remember names very well.

Above is my name tag from this event. I must admit the typeface chosen is spot on, a sans-serif like Helvetica (or Arial, can’t believe I write this), is clear and easy to read. However what needs to be addressed is the type size. After measuring I found out it’s 12pt. Well this would be ok for a headline in a magazine or book, since it’s a much closer distance for our eyes to read the text. However on name tags, we are at least half a meter or more away. (This is culturally very different of course. My friend from South America is usually coming much closer to have a conversation than my friend from Germany or Australia would.)

So the other issue apart from size is the tracking, the space between the characters. This second photo is taken from book-reading distance and the name is easy to read. However if you compare it to the first photo, which is conversation-distance the text appears as two black rectangles. Quite simple the bigger the distance from our eyes to the written words, the further the individual letters should be apart from each other. But they always need to be legible as words, if it’s too much tracking, we only see letters and not words anymore.

Nad’s name tags font rule of thumb: choose an easy to read font (nothing curly or ornamental), appropriate size somewhere between 24–28pt (depending on fonts you use) and always make a test run with someone you know well (friend or collegue)

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