Fonts – More than just a Pretty Face

By | June 22, 2010

Today on “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio (NPR), Patty Murray of Wisconsin Public Radio reported that the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay has switched the default font on its e-mail system from Arial to Century Gothic in order to save money on printer ink. The university was primarily targeting local printing by students

While the Century Gothic font is proven to use less ink (or toner) than Arial and several other fonts, it is also wider and therefore can take more paper, thereby undercutting any savings. The story also referenced (incorrectly) that Century Gothic is more efficient than using an Ecofont. The folks in Green Bay apparently weren’t aware that Ecofont makes a variety of typefaces. Naturally, Ecofont was immediately on the wires with a rebuttal “Why Ecofont saves more money than Century Gothic.”  

Ecofont purports to save up to 25% on ink or toner without a loss of legibility. According to the literature, the Ecofont software works with your existing fonts and “during printing Ecofont ‘shoots’ holes into the letters that you have typed.” It is  intended for PCs and workstations versus production printing – but there may be production parallels. decided to take the analysis a bit further and test 9 different fonts for their respective ink and toner usage. The most efficient font cost 30% less than Arial in supplies costs and the least efficient cost 10% more than Arial. That’s a potential 40% swing in cost based on font selection.

Many of us are subject to the constraints of corporate brand identity standards and can’t randomly change the fonts we use, but where there are a variety of fonts to choose from it would be worthwhile to conduct your own tests on relative ink / toner usage. Where brand standards are not an issue, printers would do well to have font efficiency guidelines available as a benefit to their clients – particularly if printing on toner devices. In addition, corporations trying to push electronic adoption should consider investing in Ecofonts for your customers so that they can save money when they print information out at home. Perhaps this can be your next incentive for those who sign up for e-statements or other e-presentment. They might even thank you.

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4 thoughts on “Fonts – More than just a Pretty Face

  1. Sean Roberts

    A great example of “form follows function.” The results of testing of course, are subject to particular printer settings (draft mode, manual grayscale settings, etc), but the use of technology (hole-punchd fonts) to shave a penny is definitely intriguing….

  2. Elizabeth Gooding Post author

    Yes – and it seems like you could save a lot depending on the particular printer you are using. For example toner costs more than ink so it would make sense to test the cost savings on toner devices first – and as you say – record the specific settings and assumptions. There are so many variables to test for the potential to save money that I think sometimes people get overwhelmed and do nothing! Selecting efficient fonts is just one of many opportunities to improve the cost-effectiveness of the overall production process.

  3. Carrie Grove

    I have to be honest, I was not aware of Ecofonts and this whole topic is one I had not contemplated. It makes so much sense. I am glad to have come across your blog. I will be doing more research on this topic of eco friendly fonts and passing the information on to my customers. I also plan to put eco friendly fonts into use at my office. Thanks!

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