When the boy was in middle school, he realized he was getting a whole lot of handouts, more than he was used to in elementary school, reports CNN. That launched him on an ink-saving mission to figure out how to save money and conserve resources, all by experimenting with different typefaces.
After charting commonly used characters used in school handouts, he printed them in four different fonts: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software, he was able to measure how much ink was used for each letter.
He then analyzed all his work and found that Garamond, with its thinner strokes, could save his school district up to $21,000 per year.
From there he was on to bigger and better things, encouraged by his teacher, and got in touch with the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded specifically for the work of middle school and high school students. Of the 200 submissions to publish work since 2011, his stood out.
“We were so impressed. We really could really see the real-world application in [his] paper,” one of the founders said of his work.
JEI’s peer reviewers prompted him to tackle the question of how the federal government could possibly save cash, just like his school district, on its $1.8 billion per year printing expenses.
Using the same methods he employed on the earlier project, he got similar results: Subsituting Garamond for Times New Roman would save $136 million per year on government documents, with an additional $234 million in savings if state governments followed suit, he concluded.
So will it be making the change? The media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office called his work “remarkable,” but didn’t commit to a typeface switch, as the government is focused on helping the environment by moving more toward the Web.
“In 1994, we were producing 20,000 copies a day of both the Federal Register and Congressional Record. Twenty years later, we produce roughly 2,500 print copies a day,” he said.
The teen still thinks his ideas could make a big difference.
“They can’t convert everything to a digital format; not everyone is able to access information online. Some things still have to be printed,” he points out, adding, “I definitely would love to see some actual changes and I’d be happy to go as far as possible to make that change possible.”