Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions

Gutwrench

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Original poster
Jan 2, 2011
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It all started as a science fair project. As a neophyte sixth-grader at Dorseyville Middle School, Suvir noticed he was getting a lot more handouts than he did in elementary school.

Interested in applying computer science to promote environmental sustainability, Suvir decided he was going to figure out if there was a better way to minimize the constant flurry of paper and ink.

Reducing paper use through recycling and dual-sided printing had been talked about before as a way to save money and conserve resources, but there was less attention paid to the ink for which the paper served as a canvas for history and algebra handouts.

"Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume," Suvir says with a chuckle.

He's right: Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75.

So Suvir decided to focus his project on finding ways to cut down on the costly liquid.
http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/27/living/student-money-saving-typeface-garamond-schools/index.html?iref=allsearch
 

iBlazed

macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2014
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When flyers are printed en masse I highly doubt they're paying retail for those crappy little HP ink cartridges, nor are they using inkjet printers. Toner is a lot cheaper, especially generic toner. So the French perfume comparison isn't really valid.
 

Gutwrench

Contributor
Original poster
Jan 2, 2011
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When flyers are printed en masse I highly doubt they're paying retail for those crappy little HP ink cartridges, nor are they using inkjet printers. Toner is a lot cheaper, especially generic toner. So the French perfume comparison isn't really valid.
A worthwhile point. Here's another...

sixth-grader at Dorseyville Middle School
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
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Great job by the student. However, I'm sure the government will find a way to ignore or discount the study just like iBlazed did.:rolleyes:
 

iBlazed

macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2014
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Great job by the student. However, I'm sure the government will find a way to ignore or discount the study just like iBlazed did.:rolleyes:
How did I discount or ignore it? I'm just providing a perfectly valid counter-argument.

----------

A worthwhile point. Here's another...
I agree that a study like this is very impressive for a 6th grader and this kid probably has a bright future ahead of him. I'm just saying there are other points to take into consideration. I didn't realize it was forbidden to counter a 12 year old. :rolleyes:
 

Jessica Lares

macrumors G3
Oct 31, 2009
9,205
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Near Dallas, Texas, USA
I thought that was clever. The way I do it myself is by printing everything in draft mode. I also used to change the settings to print my notes/sentences/etc so that two pages would be side by side on one page when I was in high school.

Garamond is my favorite font too. Used with nice spacing and margins, it's great.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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It has long been known that Garamond is one of the most legible fonts available. Likewise, it also has long been known that Garamond is a much more environmentally friendly font - precisely because it uses less ink - than many others.

Personally, it is my favourite, one that I love and use most of the time, on account of its elegance, and legibility. However, I have noticed that - online - it doesn't seem to work quite as well as some of the other fonts.
 

zioxide

macrumors 603
Dec 11, 2006
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When flyers are printed en masse I highly doubt they're paying retail for those crappy little HP ink cartridges, nor are they using inkjet printers. Toner is a lot cheaper, especially generic toner. So the French perfume comparison isn't really valid.
And? The French perfume comparison is just an anecdote to show how expensive ink is. It doesn't discount or change his study or point at all.

The kid did his research. Sure, the government buys wholesale, but he took account of that in his calculations.

"Using the General Services Administration's estimated annual cost of ink -- $467 million -- Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% -- or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported."


The biggest problem here is that Garamond isn't a font that's free or pre-installed on most computers, so there would be a cost associated with switching to this font at the beginning. However, in the long term, the savings would roll in.
 

cambookpro

macrumors 603
Feb 3, 2010
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United Kingdom
This made me chuckle from a comment on Gizmodo:

Middle Schooler: We can save $400 million dollars annually if we print out government documents with this typeface instead.

"Government": Excellent - Johnson, get every page we currently have reprinted in this new typeface immediately. Destroy the previous versions while your at it.

Middle Schooler: But, I didn't mean repri—

"Government": Quiet kid, we know what we're doing.

*Weeks later*

New typeface costs government billions of dollars. Taxpayers demand answers.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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The Far Horizon
While my favourite font is Garamond, and I cherish its clarity, love its legibility, and revere its elegance, when choosing a font for a large corporation, or Government, cost would not be my first, or main criterion; instead, legibility would, with cost a secondary consideration.

Granted, Garamond wins on both counts. However, official documentation from a Government needs to pass the test of whether it is easy to read, and is clearly laid out and reads easy to the eye, and this argument must be won, before a further argument is made for adopting it mainly because it saves state money.
 

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
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New England, USA
As I know nothing about fonts, I'm sure that I'm about to embarrass myself with my question...so be gentle if this is stupid.

I'm partial to Helvetica...I find it very clean, simple and easy to read. I'm not familiar with Garamond...but wouldn't the simplest, least adorned typeface use the least ink?

Also...isn't Helvetica available on most computers already?

See...I told you it was a dopey question!:eek:

:)
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
46,563
31,274
The Far Horizon
As I know nothing about fonts, I'm sure that I'm about to embarrass myself with my question...so be gentle if this is stupid.

I'm partial to Helvetica...I find it very clean, simple and easy to read. I'm not familiar with Garamond...but wouldn't the simplest, least adorned typeface use the least ink?

Also...isn't Helvetica available on most computers already?

See...I told you it was a dopey question!:eek:

:)
Well, this is what Garamond looks like; it is an old but elegant typeface, and I came across it a good few years ago in a beautiful edition I bought of Dante's 'Divine Comedy'.

Personally, I don't much care for Helvetica; my own favourites are the aforementioned Garamond - which is my own default font and one I use almost all the time - the classic Times New Roman, and Arno Pro, which is a more modern take on the old idea of a classically styled font.
 

penplotter

macrumors regular
Mar 23, 2014
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Hey, I've got a way to revolutionise the way the governments spend on ink and paper...


Send tax demands ONLY by email. :D

No paper wasted, no ink wasted.
 

chown33

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Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
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When the US government stops spending 2¢ to mint a penny, we'll talk about ink.
I thought it was more than that, but apparently the cost has dropped in the past few years:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_(United_States_coin)
As of 2013, based on the US Mint Annual Report released in 2014, it costs the U.S. Mint 1.83 cents (down from 2.41 cents in 2011) to make one cent because of the cost of materials, production, and distribution.[4] This figure includes the Mint’s fixed components for distribution and fabrication, as well as Mint overhead allocated to the penny. Fixed costs and overhead would have to be absorbed by other circulating coins without the penny.[5] The loss in profitability due to producing the one cent coin in the United States for the year of 2013 was $55,000,000. This was a slight decrease from 2012, the year before, which had a production loss of $58,000,000.[6]​
Still, a loss of $55 million is less than the expected savings of $136 million projected for a font change.

Of course, neither cases considers any follow-on costs, so I'm unsure what the real costs of each would be. I've seen it before in business; some change projected to be a net cost savings ends up having unexpected effects whose costs dwarf the anticipated savings.
 

ElectronGuru

macrumors 65816
Sep 5, 2013
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When the US government stops spending 2¢ to mint a penny, we'll talk about ink.
I seem to recall the guy in charge of killing the penny was a rep from Lincoln's home state.

I also seem to recall that Apple's font from the 90s was Garamond with a 20% horizontal compression.
 

Roller

macrumors 68030
Jun 25, 2003
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in other news another middle school student advises against use of capital letters and punctuation to save ink costs when asked whether this might make it difficult to read or understand text he replied no it wouldnt even after being questioned about the following sentence its time to eat mother
 

sjinsjca

macrumors 68020
Oct 30, 2008
2,061
398
Well, this is what Garamond looks like; it is an old but elegant typeface, and I came across it a good few years ago in a beautiful edition I bought of Dante's 'Divine Comedy'.

Personally, I don't much care for Helvetica; my own favourites are the aforementioned Garamond - which is my own default font and one I use almost all the time - the classic Times New Roman, and Arno Pro, which is a more modern take on the old idea of a classically styled font.
Thank you for posting such a nice example of Garamond. (How'd you do that?)

The readability of a serif font is indisputable. Sans-serif is fine for headlines and captions, but when serif fonts are used for body copy, kittens purr.

Garamond is very efficient but to my eye has a dusty/old quality. It's a great, venerable font and very efficient. It's just not to my taste for much besides classical literature.

Georgia is almost as efficient and IMHO looks a little more modern, but still a bit stodgy.

A nice compromise font is the very fresh-looking Optima. In terms of efficiency it's between Georgia and Garamond, and it straddles the serif/sans-serif divide.
 

rhett7660

macrumors G5
Jan 9, 2008
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Sunny, Southern California
Great job by the student. However, I'm sure the government will find a way to ignore or discount the study just like iBlazed did.:rolleyes:
Yup.... Here is one for yeah. My wife works for a VA Medical center. She has to run a report that when printed, she uses say pages 60-70. However the report has to print all pages. No there is no print page X to X.

She put a request in to the programmers to add this functionality. Well they came back with it will cost "X" dollars. The VA did not want to pay for this update, even though the cost savings of having to shred and print this weekly document would be recooped in as little as three weeks! :eek:

Yup. This sounds about right.
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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The study (sadly) wouldn't hold to up rigorous peer-review. Its a nice idea, and I'm sure that Garamond would save *some* ink. But his sampling was selective, and he ignores a lot of the other factors that go into ink usage.

First of which is that he assumes the portion related to "ink cost" goes 100% towards printed text. This obviously isn't the case: a great deal of ink used in printing goes towards graphics - photos, maps, diagrams, pie charts, clip art, logos, lines, shading, and the rest.

Secondly he ignores the other costs involved with changing typefaces. Garamond has its appeal. but its not particularly legible at smaller sizes. The sort of "fine print" that makes up an awful lot of Government bumf.

And then you've got the cost of redesigning pretty much every form and publication in the Government inventory to accommodate the new typeface. I don't know how much that would cost, but I'm pretty sure it would add up to billions.

Lastly, the word "font" is not a true synonym for "typeface". Garamond (and helvetica, Times New Roman, Palatino, etc.) are typefaces. "Arial 12 pt. Bold Italic" is a "font" in the "typeface" Arial.
 

hallux

macrumors 68030
Apr 25, 2012
2,774
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How much would it cost to train government representatives to manually change the font in Word? :D
They can push a new template with the standard font changed so they don't need to re-train.