Expert: No, US Won't Save Money by Switching Fonts
Teen's math all wrong, writes Fast Company columnist
By Newser Editors, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2014 6:49 PM CDT
An example of Adobe's Garamond font.   (Rbpolsen / Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Looks like a teen's groundbreaking idea might have been too good to be true: Switching its chosen font to Garamond won't actually save the government hundreds of millions of dollars, writes John Brownlee at Fast Company. Suvir Mirchandani, 14, made headlines by arguing that Garamond uses less ink than other fonts and thus the US could save boatloads of money if it became the government's default font. But Brownlee, following up on a technical explanation by typography expert Thomas Phinney, agrees with Phinney that the teen is off base. His crucial mistake: He thought all 12-point fonts were the same size.

"Mirchandani is only 14, so he can be excused for not understanding this weirdo oddity of the way fonts are measured, but the biggest issue with his argument is that he measured Garamond at the wrong size," writes Brownlee. Garamond's letters are about 15% smaller on average than those of more common fonts—even when they're technically the same font size. If the government switched to Garamond, then, it would have to increase size to improve legibility, which would essentially erase any savings. "There's very little reason to believe that Garamond would save the government any money at all," writes Brownlee. Click for the full column, which gets into other problems with the teen's proposal.

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Showing 3 of 25 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Apr 2, 2014 7:56 PM CDT
We wouldn't have anything printed if it weren't for the paper industry. The government has passed legislation through the years to reduce paper spending. This only peeved off the paper mills who need to continue to pollute sensitive waters in the Northeast with harsh chemicals that kill nearly extinct species of fish and other animals. Now they are lobbying against new efforts to reduce paper use by the government even more. This includes reducing checks printed by the treasury. AARP is a friend of the paper mills in most cases. But truly there is no reason even old geezers can't get a $100 Kindle or Nook.
crackalacka
Apr 2, 2014 2:13 PM CDT
Talk about missing the point... Inefficiency FTW...?? Besides the fact that a 12pt font is supposed to be nearly as legible as another 12pt font regardless of innate differences in size (generally speaking - I know there are lots of crazy fonts out there, but we're talking about basic ones), go ahead: MAKE things a mere 10% less legible if you can save hundreds of millions of dollars. The only ones who will notice are very old seniors who probably use thick glasses or magnifying glasses anyway. Oh no! They'll have to move forward one extra half-inch...! Do LOTS of things like this and we save more than would seem possible.
BillGalluccio
Apr 2, 2014 1:51 PM CDT
If we change the font, why do we need to increase the size? Isn't that the point of changing the font? So it is smaller, and uses up less ink? We should also be decreasing the space between letters, and paragraphs and punctuation. A small increase in space between letters would add 1-2 pages of my college papers, so I'm sure an equal decrease in size could save millions of pages of paper over the course of the year, which would save money.