UGLY FONTS MAY AID RECALL

Do “ugly fonts” help us remember what we read? Is the everlasting trend towards making information more “readable”, and in general easier to digest, counter-productive? There was an interesting piece on Radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning, together with a very short and unscientific test of the theory: from three short pieces on three different subjects, all the presenter could remember about the text she’d been shown in Arial was that it was in Arial.

I said the test was “unscientific”, not just because it was so short (they probably had to leave enough time for yet another weather forecast) but also because I strongly believe that interest is the key to memory. If she’d been shown three pieces of text in three different fonts, but all on the same subject, then we would have removed a very significant variable.

If this theory is true (and it seems logical that making our brain work harder will aid recall), then my wonderful Kindle is too easy to read! Maybe it needs more font options. It currently has the choice of a “regular” typeface, also “condensed” and sans-serif.

I was somewhat surprised when I found that the Kindle’s “regular” typeface was a serif font; I’d always heard that sans-serif was better for reading onscreen, serif for print. Maybe the point is that the Kindle is designed to be as close as possible to the experience of reading from the printed page.

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