Font News

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So text font matters. While this is not exactly a revelation to graphic designers or even, say, a nine-year-olds who thought it might be fun to type homework out in Bauhaus 93 (not a good idea), no one was quite sure how font really worked. You could read it easily or you couldn’t, that was it. Not really, it turns out.

According to an article by Prerna Ramachandra in the Daily Princetonian, one night Princeton student Connor Diemand-Yauman discovered something interesting:

It was only after hours of photocopying required readings that Connor Diemand-Yauman ’10, then a junior, realized that he had accidentally cut off the last few letters of each line. “When I began reading the poorly copied passages, I was surprised to notice that I was concentrating and retaining the material better than usual,” [he] explained in an e-mail.

The experience sparked his interest in disfluency, or the subjective feeling of difficulty associated with cognitive tasks — an experience which has been shown to allow for deeper mental processing. In his thesis, Diemand-Yauman manipulated a different variable that contributes to disfluency: font style. He ultimately found, through laboratory and classroom trials, that hard-to-read fonts allowed students to retain more information than easy-to-read fonts did.

It’s hard to know quite what to do with this. Hard-to-read text might make a dedicated student concentrate more but it also might make a lazy one give up. Is that a good thing?

Still it’s interesting to see that undergraduates really can find opportunities to do significant research and all inquiries into pedagogy and learning styles aren’t incredibly boring and needlessly complicated.

(I briefly considering writing this whole post in Wingdings, but I figured that sort of meta-level blogging wouldn’t really be funny.) [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer