The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
  Was Ogilvy wrong about reverse type?

Mel from Hamburg sent us a link to a site which reveals that Ogilvy may have been wrong.

"World-renowned for his contributions to the world of advertising, David Ogilvy was nothing if not generous with his opinions. That he loathed reverse type -- white letters on black background -- was one opinion Ogilvy vociferously made clear," it says. But it was more than an opinion. Ogilvy was relying on reading comprehension tests conducted by Colin Wheildon while he was publications manager at the National Roads and Motorists Association in Sydney Australia. Scientifically rigorous methodology was employed to demonstrate that readers find it hard to read text set in reverse and remember less of the content that they read in that format compared to conventional typography.

Now I knew Colin Wheildon and I knew David Ogilvy and to classify their views as mere 'opinion' is dangerous.

The website report is from Lighthouse International, a "leading resource worldwide on vision loss and vision impairment". Lighthouse research found that reverse type seems to make no apparent difference to people with normal vision. Bullshit, I say, until I see the report and the methodology used.

Aries Arditi, PhD, vision science expert, said: "Our research shows that for many older and partially sighted readers who have reduced visual image clarity, white letters on a dark or black background are easiest to read."

This may be true. Barbara Silverstone, DSW, President and CEO of Lighthouse International, makes the brash statement: "By denouncing the use of reverse type, Ogilvy overlooked a large and growing population of potential consumers -- people who, like theater-goers reading in the dark, benefit from the enhanced readability of white letters on a black background. Knock-out type helps communicate a message to a wider audience -- thus, its use can only serve to expand the reach of advertisements."

My advice to you: tread warily when setting type in reverse. If it is essential the reader read it, set it black on white in larger type. If it's not so important, set it anyway you like.
I think that the headline to this entire blog is a testimant to this. I cant help but read it. I think in certain situations reverse type can be powerful like in presentations on large boards. But I have also seen black text on a white background used in presos aswell. I am in favour with less reverse type because its the smart researched option. Check this out for good type:
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