Email and fonts


I know you’ve addressed email typography in both practicaltypography and typographyforlawyers, noting in both places that technological constraints make email a “typography-free zone.” But I wonder if your views have changed at all (or if others in this forum have thoughts) at least on the narrow question of typeface choice.

The technological constraints—as I understand them, and probably using improper wording—are: (1) email messages don’t transmit font-file information; (2) system fonts vary, not only by OS but also by email reader (such as viewing a message through Outlook on a PC vs viewing it through Gmail on a Mac); and (3) individual email settings may force unhoped-for substitutions.

Even so, are there “good” font choices for email that are likely to be rendered consistently across most devices and be legible & readable under typical email reading conditions? Or is any effort to control what font email recipients see a waste of time?

I still think it’s a waste of time, for the reasons you cite. Pick the font for email that you enjoy reading, because you’re likely to be the only one who sees it. Though if others feel my views are out of date, I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

I know it’s possible to send email messages that are full HTML pages with embedded WOFF fonts—as promotional email messages sometimes do—but I don’t see any sign of that becoming a more common technique for ordinary messages. (At least, we should hope it doesn’t become common, because then even a message like “OK thanks” will come with a 250K font-file attachment to display properly.)