A few years ago I needed to print a manuscript of over 300 pages on my laser printer. The choice of which typeface, size, and weight have a big effect on toner consumption and legibility. Making the type smaller, lighter, or both saves toner (or ink) and paper, but one usually pays a price in poorer legibility.
This manuscript was for editing purposes and would be pored over for many hours so it had to be reasonably legible. The type had to be large enough to annotate with a pencil.
I wanted to have my cake and eat it too so I spent considerable time looking over a myriad of fonts. Since this wouldn’t be the last time this problem would arise, I felt the investment in time and effort was worth it. If a font really solved the problem, I was willing to pay for it. I didn’t limit my search to free fonts.
I searched several sites on the web offering thousands of free and pay-for fonts, concentrating on sans-serif fonts. I wasn’t looking for artistic beauty, I was looking for legibility. After finding nothing that stood out, I eventually tired of this and stopped. Then I tried different tack. An ordinary web search for “most legible font” led directly to what I wanted.
The Lato font family is fairly new. I had never heard of it. It was specifically designed for maximum legibility. The family is comprised of many variations, each carefully hand-tuned by the font’s creators, including a “light” variation and a “hairline” variation. Lato Hairline was exactly what I was looking for. It’s very light, composed of thin lines, but isn’t faint. It remains perfectly legible to my old eyes.
Since then, the whole family has become my standard san-serif / Helvetica style font that I use for everything instead of Liberation Sans, Arial, and Calibri that I used to use. You’re looking at it right now.
If you need a versatile, highly legible sans-serif font, you might give it a try. The Lato family is free to use for any purpose. You can find it at the link below or from Google, or Adobe.
Disclaimer: I have no relation to the above web site, Google, Adobe, or the creators of the Lato font.