How the Web Became Unreadable

Kevin Marks writes a plea to designers concerning the diminishing contrast between type and background.

As screens have advanced, designers have taken advantage of their increasing resolution by using lighter typeface, lower contrast, and thinner fonts. However, as more of us switch to laptops, mobile phones, and tablets as our main displays, the ideal desktop conditions from design studios are increasingly uncommon in life.

Marks' article is well researched, with shocking examples from Google's App Engine redesign (before) (after), which appear to be a very robotic (dare I say engineer-like) response to written guidelines and suggestions.

I often have to remind myself that my eyes have been trained to spot minute difference between colors, but the vast majority of people can't and simply don't care. Font-weights have a far more impactful resonance than subtleties in color ever will, but combining the both color and weight is what brings life to a design. The solution here is not a utilitarian "keep your type black", but a reminder to adhere to suggested contrast ratios and accessibility guidelines.

In other words, you can pry #2E2E30 from my dead cold fingers, but I promise not to overlay that on #000000.

Not to muddy Mark's message, but this line really got to me: "Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is." Typography is arguably the single most important element a designer can work with; if a user can't see your design, what's the point of making it in the first place?