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US government can save millions of dollars by changing font? Not so fast, fonts expert says

NEW DELHI: Suvir Mirchandani, a 14-year-old Indian origin student in the US, is in news nowadays for his study that suggests that the US government can save $400 in printing cost if its switches the font in official documents from Times New Roman to Garamond. While many people took note of Mirchandani's observation, which he made in a research project for his school, a fonts and typography expert says that the idea of saving millions of dollars is an exaggeration. 

The expert, Thomas Phinney, wrote on his blog that switching to Garamond at the same font size means the size of the text was smaller on the printed paper and hence less ink was used in printing the document. But, he added, it had nothing to do with the font. 

"It is not the change of font to Garamond that saves toner; it is that their chosen font is smaller at the same nominal point size than the comparison fonts," wrote Phinney. 

Phinney said that when used in lower case, Garamond font is around 15% smaller than Times New Roman at the same font. "Setting any font 15% smaller would save 28% of its area coverage. Interestingly, this is pretty exactly much what the study found. So, you could just as easily save ink by setting the same font at a smaller point size," he wrote. 

Phinney said that it was definitely possible to use a smaller font size and save the printing cost but it would also make the documents harder to read and hence was not a very wise thing to do. 

There were two other problems that the expert found in Mirchandani's research. He claimed that it was too simple. 

He wrote that large offices pay per page printed, and actual toner consumption was generally ignored. "In such cases, a font change will only save based on the page count, not the toner," Phinney. The other problem with the study was that "expensive ink" was used only in inkjet printers. But most printing at government offices was done using offset printing, said Phinney. 

"For offset printing, the percentage of the cost of that is associated with ink is in fact much smaller than for laser or inkjet printing," he wrote. 

However, even though he criticised Mirchandani's theory, Phinney was all praise for the school kid. "It is great that a middle school kid is doing creative problem solving and applying scientific thinking," he wrote.


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