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by Allan Haley

Two graphic designers, Matthew Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth, decided that they wanted to find out which typeface was the most “earth friendly.” Their collaboration, called “Measuring Type,” took several popular typefaces and determined how much printer ink each consumed.

I’m suspect.

The study involved the Brush Script™, Comic Sans®, Cooper Black, Courier, Garamond, Helvetica®, Impact and Times New Roman® typefaces. The comparison was supposedly done by drawing out large-scale renditions of the typefaces using ballpoint pens, “allowing the remaining ink levels to display the ink efficiency of each typeface.”

Cute concept, but not exactly scientific. First, drawing a rendition of a typeface is not an accurate way to determine how much ink the actual typeface consumes. Second, if you’ve used a ballpoint pen, you know that you can do an awful lot of writing (certainly more than a half-dozen big letters) before any appreciable loss of ink is noticeable.

Then, there are the results. According to the study, Garamond used the least amount of ink, followed by Courier, Brush Script, Times New Roman and then Helvetica. Comic Sans, Cooper Black and Impact were deemed the ink-gluttons of the pack.

While I’m sure that Robinson and Wrigglesworth had the best of intentions with their study, it also ignores one of the main tenets of typographic communication: legibility. As I wrote in an earlier post, legibility is measure of how easy it is to distinguish one letter from another – a pretty important aspect when it comes to reading.

Garamond is generally considered to be a very legible typeface. Courier, because of its mono-width letters, however, is not. It is also less legible than the fourth place Times New Roman and the fifth place Helvetica. Because it is a script, the same holds true for the third place Brush Script.

If you want to save ink, the results of the Measuring Type study may be helpful. If, however, your goal is to make it easy for your readers to assimilate your content the study is a few points short of an em-quad.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.