Think of Me Fontly
“Have you heard about the new font? It’s so cool!” said the in-house graphic designer. Now not being up on my fontology like I apparently should be, I obviously had not heard about the new font. Frankly, I didn’t know new fonts could be exciting. But this particular font that designer Westin Smith was referencing, Sans Forgetica, was actually fascinating to learn about.
The font was developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia by a team of researchers and designers from the Behavioral Business Lab and the design school. Their intent was to develop a font to help students and others better remember the things they had studied or read.
One of the developers, Janneke Blijlevens, said, “When we want to learn something and remember it, it’s good to have a little bit of an obstruction added to that learning process because if something is too easy it doesn’t create a memory trace. If it’s too difficult, it doesn’t leave a memory trace either. So you need to look for that sweet spot.” And they found that sweet spot. One study they conducted showed that students' retention rate of what they read went up from 50% in Arial font to 57% in Sans Forgetica.
Sans Forgetica has two main obstructions. One is that there are gaps in the lettering, forcing the brain to fill in the gaps to be able to read the words. The other is that the lettering is slanted to the left, as opposed to traditional italicizing of sloping to the right. This provides for the brain what is known as “desirable difficulty”. BOLD defines “desirable difficulties” as “the term given to a set of educational practices that make learning more challenging but also more effective. These approaches may feel hard, but evidence shows that they can lead to efficient learning.”
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