Gurak and Lannon cover justification (merely a printing term, don’t get your theological shirt in a wad) in a typical writerly manner. While I cannot pretend to be a graphic designer (well—I could, but I won’t), I can tell you that they study these things to the scientific detail and have some pretty interesting conclusions, which they preach in Introduction to Layout class. Which I took.
Graphic Design Conclusion #1: Justification is a blot and abomination upon the page. It’s widely used because it looks so uniform—but it’s actually harder for the eye to track from line to line, increasing eye fatigue in reading. This is certainly not satisfying to readers. A “ragged” right hand edge is much easier to follow, and—the graphic design majors will tell you—has an unpredictable elegance about it. Excessive justification is probably why we all have difficulty reading our textbooks…(Right? Am I right?)
Graphic Design Conclusion #2: Sans-serif fonts are often harder on the eyes than serif fonts. This seems counterintuitive. Your main goal is that the reader can read with simplicity and ease, and the little tails would merely cause us to stumble. Actually, though, my class taught that serifs tend to guide the eyes from letter to letter. This does not mean that serif fonts should be shunned—they have a wide use on the web in particular, but in all areas of print as well. Apparently serif vs. sans serif is a raging debate in the graphic design world, of which we technical writers are blissfully ignorant of. Until now. [exit: dramatic theme music]