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

(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.

An example of Adobe's Garamond font.
An example of Adobe's Garamond font.   (Rbpolsen / Wikimedia Commons)
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The whole study assumes the government prints all of its documents like someone's grandma printing out birthday cards on a cheap
HP inkjet. - John Brownlee

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