What's in a font?

Feb 18, 2014

I'm looking for research/thoughts to support/dismiss the idea that if it's harder for a learner to read it on the screen..sometimes it's better, because they have to spend time to read it rather than skip it. I know I've seen this. 

Example: Using a cursive font in a caption rather than a sans serif.

7 Replies
Keith Freeman

Mike Taylor said:

Hey Keith, that's fascinating research isn't it? Here's an HBR article about it:   His research also talks about how a font influences a wide variety of judgments and cognitive operations--including judgments of truth, intelligence, familiarity, attractiveness, and more. Very interesting stuff!!! 

Awesome. That's it! Thanks.

Dave P

WOW!  I can't believe this.  I have always been under the assumption that easy to use fonts like verdana and arial were the best to use because they were easy on the eyes.  I'm going to build my next course with comic sans serif and see what people say about it.  I'd also like to see the folks who do the "Brain Games" TV show tackle this as to why harder to read fonts cause us to remember more.

Judy Nollet

I can definitely understand how needing to slow down to decipher the text would make you concentrate a bit more on the content. Tough call on how just how hard-to-read the font should be, though. As noted in the article, if the course is optional, people might simply shun it if it immediately hurts their eyes. Or complain to the training manager.

Ellen Lones

Enjoyed reading about this, thanks! The questions I have are much more basic though.

I cannot find anywhere that says what size font one should use in Storyline and whether and how much the font size is compressed in Storyline once published. Is it a 1 to 1 ratio? In other words, if I chose Calibri 18 as my notes text font/size, how do I check that indeed it shows up as Calibri 18 in the published  slide? And how much (more) does text get compressed once I put the Storyline published program into my LMS? Where do I find information about these issues? Also, need same sort of info for graphics. Please help!



Jeff Fuqua

To me, it's about creating interest using typography while not slowing readability. There are lots of ways to accomplish this in a way that engages the viewer besides using a funky font (unless it fits with the overall theme of the presentation).

Like color and any other graphic element, type has a personality. To use Comic Sans, for example, is saying "don't take this seriously". Now, if the presentation is about making balloon animals, it's perfect!

Cary Glenn

I would be careful about taking this study to be the final word. There have been other studies, notably Thompson et. al. "The role of answer fluency and perceptual fluency as metacognitive cues for initiating analytic thinking", 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23158572

They found there no difference in font fluency and answer fluency.
There are a couple of issues that I have with the original study Oppenheimer study. The lack of n values frustrates me, these are important when looking at the study. There is probably a falling off point, a point where the font is too disfluent that learning becomes very difficult; what is that point?

We also need to consider if we increase the disfluency too much learners may react unfavorably to the course. Many of us are developing courses for adults who are already strapped for time and adding needless font styles may not be appreciated.

I'll be keeping my eye on this area and I'm willing to change my mind on the subject but so far the evidence for increasing the disfluency of fonts is lacking.

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