Isn’t it funny how something you’ve rarely thought about grabs your attention and then seems to crop up everywhere? I experienced this recently in the world of fonts – no really.
A friend mentioned that Comic Sans was under attack, mentioning that it made life difficult for dyslexic people. Discussion with a couple of dyslexic friends led me to understand that simple, sans serif fonts were thought to be easier to read. I became obsessed by fonts for a few days, as you do, and left it at that.
Then, my mind turned to Amazon’s Kindle. I haven’t bought one, but downloaded Kindle for PC (a free download, granting access to thousands of free books) and was impressed. I particularly liked that one could adjust font size and words-per-line in a way that seemed to assist speed reading* – I never fancied the idea of lengthy sessions reading from the screen – not a laptop screen, anyway.
I then came upon a couple of articles by a favourite science writer, Jonah Lehrer (author of the intriguingly titled Proust Was a Neuroscientist – look inside the book here). The first post was on e-reading in general while the second concentrated on ugly fonts. This latter post directed the reader to research carried out by Princeton University‘s Department of Psychology, which tends to suggest that the easy fonts favoured by e-readers may result in poorer retention – or conversely that changing fonts could prove a cost-effective way of bringing about improvement in schools and colleges.
I found this interesting on many levels: as someone in education; as someone who knows people who find difficult fonts to be just that; as someone who doesn’t like the look of easy fonts (my preferred fonts are Times New Roman; Georgia and Traditional Arabic (misleading name as the letters are Roman…). I imagine that much more research remains to be carried out in this field.
I’d be interested in hearing your experiences and views on fonts.
It might come as a surprise to some but there are also variable fonts in the world of printed music. In this video about Sibelius score writing software (used in our schools by pupils and staff alike) you can see, for example, the difference between a standard font and a jazz one (feigning hand-written music) which appears at 3:08
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* I only use speed reading when reading for info as opposed to reading for pleasure.