Couple of days ago, a story about how an Indian origin teen’s study could save the US government hundreds of millions of dollars by simply switching the font, went viral. We ran the story too.
14 year old Suvir Mirchandani’s science fair project found that Garamond, which is a lighter font and takes lesser Ink could save the government $400 mn of printing costs.
Apparently, the study was wrong. Thomas Phinney, a Typography expert pointed out a flaw in the story soon after it broke. The confusion arises because of the difference between the actual font size and its representation using points. While crediting Mirchandani for creative problem solving and scientific thinking, Phinney points out
Garamond lowercase is about 15% smaller than the average of the fonts they compare it to, while its caps are only about 7.5% smaller. So it is no surprise that it uses less ink at the same point size.
Scientific studies that compare fonts resize fonts to make up for this difference and this one didn’t. Setting any font 15% smaller would save 28% of its area coverage, Phinney pointed out. So basically, its like saying you could save ink by printing in a smaller size.
Making the font smaller will simply make it less readable. He also points out that the study also makes no distinction between Ink and toner, the latter being much cheaper than Inkjet ink. Much of government printing is also carried out by offset printers who don’t use costlier ink.
* At 14, Suvir is obviously very smart and is on to something big in his life. This post is just to set the record straight.