Tag Archives: fonts

Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning

Much has been writ­ten on the pos­it­ive aspects of cog­nit­ive flu­ency (in terms of typo­graphy, accents, and almost everything else), but a recent study (pdf, doi) sug­gests that the oppos­ite (cog­nit­ive dis­flu­ency) could lead to bet­ter learn­ing. The the­ory is that harder-to-pro­cess mater­i­al requires “deep­er pro­cessing” and that this deep­er pro­cessing leads to super­i­or memory per­form­ance.

Earli­er this year the ever-excel­lent Jonah Lehr­er sum­mar­ised the study, describ­ing how long-term learn­ing and reten­tion improved when classroom mater­i­al was set in a hard-to-read font (e.g. Mono­type Cor­s­iva, Com­ic Sans Italicized or Haettensch­weiler).

This study demon­strated that stu­dent reten­tion of mater­i­al across a wide range of sub­jects (sci­ence and human­it­ies classes) and dif­fi­culty levels (reg­u­lar, Hon­or­s and Advanced Place­ment) can be sig­ni­fic­antly improved in nat­ur­al­ist­ic set­tings by present­ing read­ing mater­i­al in a format that is slightly harder to read…. The poten­tial for improv­ing edu­ca­tion­al prac­tices through cog­nit­ive inter­ven­tions is immense. If a sim­ple change of font can sig­ni­fic­antly increase stu­dent per­form­ance, one can only ima­gine the num­ber of bene­fi­cial cog­nit­ive inter­ven­tions wait­ing to be dis­covered.

One of the study authors, in a com­ment pub­lished in a New York Times art­icle look­ing at cog­nit­ive flu­ency in learn­ing, emphas­ises how it’s not the font that mat­ters, but the pro­cessing dif­fi­culty:

“The reas­on that the unusu­al fonts are effect­ive is that it causes us to think more deeply about the mater­i­al, […] but we are cap­able of think­ing deeply without being sub­jec­ted to unusu­al fonts. Think of it this way, you can­’t skim mater­i­al in a hard to read font, so put­ting text in a hard-to-read font will force you to read more care­fully.”

Periodic Table of Typefaces

Periodic Table of TypefacesThe Peri­od­ic Table of Typefaces is a fant­ast­ic visu­al­isa­tion of 100 of the most pop­u­lar, influ­en­tial and notori­ous typefaces avail­able.

Grouped by fam­il­ies and classes of typefaces ((sans-)serif, script, glyph­ic, grot­esque, etc.), each ‘ele­ment’ lists the design­er, the year designed and a rank­ing of 1 through 100.

Sites used to cal­cu­late the rank­ing:

via @Dave_Gorman