26 Jun 2013

The Power of Font Faces

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Chris Gayomali, in The Week, discusses the remarkable power of the properly-chosen typeface to lend authority to a text.

Type design is something we tend not to think about when we’re reading. But font can have real-world implications that affect our lives in tangible ways.

Take this somewhat famous quasi-experiment by university student Phil Renaud back in 2006 (preserved for posterity in Pastebin form). Over the course of six semesters, Renaud wrote 52 essays for his classes, earning himself a commendable A- overall.

Here’s the thing: Toward the end of his last semester, Renaud’s average essay score began climbing. “I haven’t drastically changed the amount of effort I’m putting into my writing,” he wrote. “I’m probably even spending less time with them now than I did earlier in my studies.”

What he did change, however, was his essay font — three times, in fact. Renaud went back and looked at his essay scores and the different typefaces he’d used when he submitted his work. His papers were handed to his professors in three different fonts: Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Georgia.

Here’s what he tallied:

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