Font fans, run in fear. BBC is reporting on new research that finds the Helveticats and Arialites have it all wrong. If you really want a brainy, thought-provoking typeface, turn to Comic Sans:
The 28 volunteers in the Princeton study were given 90 seconds to try to memorise a list of seven features for three different species of alien.
The idea was to re-create the kind of learning in a biology class. Aliens were chosen to be sure that none of the volunteers’ prior knowledge interfered with the results.
One group was given the lists in 16-point Arial pure black font, which is generally regarded to be easy and clear to read.
The other had the same information presented in either 12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale font or 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale.
The volunteers were distracted for 15 minutes, and then tested on how much they could remember.
Researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.
They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards.
They repeated the experiment with innocent grade schoolers and the result was much the same. The “disfluent” typeface (harder to read) resulted in more concentration and better recall.
I mean, the ethics! Think of the ethics:
Teachers were asked to send all supplementary learning materials to the researchers, who then changed the texts to the harder-to-read fonts Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva, and Comic Sans Italicised.
They’re going to do it again, too. To see if it makes sense to… to make this a widespread practice.