Teen Way Smarter Than Us: Silly Government, Just Change Your Typeface And Save $400M

Teen says Garamond could save money over Times New Roman.

Teen says Garamond could save money over Times New Roman (Enokson).

For my sixth-grade science fair project, I played Hootie and the Blowfish for some bean plants and displayed a half-hearted cardboard poster with the inconclusive results. In comparison, a now 14-year-old figured out how to save governments, including the federal one, a whole lot of money on ink, to the tune of $400 million.

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.”

Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions [CNN]

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  1. BrainDamage says:

    I was half-expecting the recommended font to be Comic Sans.

  2. webalias says:

    I’m impressed with this kid — to a point. But there are a few problems with his idea. I suspect that the font he has selected, with its thinner strokes, is not going to be nearly as readable as the Times Roman font he would replace. That could be especially problematic for senior citizens, the group most likely to be the audience for print as opposed to online materials. The next, obvious step would be to test the readability of both fonts to get some data. Of course one can save on ink by using less of it, with a lighter typeface. So why not go lighter still, with a face even thinner than the particular Garamond font he proposes? Clearly, at some point, the trade off between cost savings and readability will not be acceptable. He also does not factor in the cost of making the change. His idea may show that he has promise, but his case is flawed and incomplete.

  3. evlpete says:

    Problem is when Fonts like Garamond quickly become unreadable when grayed out or printed with with a dieing toner cartridge etc…