Type and trig: Understanding how to scale text for automobile design (with bonus calculator!)

I had a wonderful time talking at the AIGA Seattle’s monthly design meetup last week about user experience in automobiles and how we can effectively balance UI design and driver safety. (You can view the static slides of my presentation or slides with videos to see everything I talked about.) One of the big points I hit on with the attendees was making text elements and graphics too small in the UI. I started the section with a pop quiz.

Pop Quiz! Question: What is the optimal size for text displayed in the car? Answer: 20 arcminutes

And, as expected, I got the collective, “Whaaaa?” But seriously… 20 arcminutes. What the heck does that mean?

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