Does the font you choose to use matter?

Everyone has a preferred font when typing up an essay, assignment, email, etc. but why is this? Is it the attractiveness? Or is it the fact that certain fonts help us focus and read better than others? The question of focus of this blog post is, does typography affect the way we read? I searched studies of typography and here is what I found:


First, a study interested in the effect of font size and font type examined popular used fonts to find differences between different fonts. They conducted an experimental study testing multiple variable correlated with fonts such as, reading effectiveness and time, font legibility and attractiveness, and the overall preference of the font. The fonts studied were Century Schoolbook, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, Arial, Comic Sans MS, Tahoma, and Verdana. The sizes being studied were 10, 12, and 14. The study included sixty people of both genders, between the ages of 18 and 55, with 20/40 vision or better.

In the end, the study found that font styles at any size had no significant difference in reading efficiency because the differences between the two were not great enough. However, on average, larger sized fonts were found to be more readable as compared to smaller sized fonts. Reading time for each font type gave an average p value of p < .01 and for size, p < .05, meaning, there’s really something going on. Times and Arial were found to be read the fastest of all the fonts, along with 12-point size fonts.

Font legibility showed a relation of p <.01 between font and size. In this trial, Tahoma 10-point, Verdana and Courier 12-point were the most legible. However, the data also showed Arial and Courier as the most legible fonts in any size, and Comic as the most illegible font. Data of this study also supported that increasing text size does not necessarily mean it’ll make a font more legible.

Font type differences for attractiveness resulted in a p value of p < .001. Times, Arial, Georgia were the most attractive fonts according to participants. At the 10-point size, differences in ranking were p < .001. Arial, Courier, Comic, Georgia, and Verdana were most preferred and Times was the least preferred. At the 12-point size, preference differences were p < .01. Arial was the most preferred font and Times was the least preferred font at this size. At the 14-point size, preference differences were p = .064. Comic was the most preferred and Times was the least preferred font at this size. Overall, in this study, all three sizes resulted in a significant difference of p < .001.

Although Times was studied to be one of the most attractive, it surprisingly was also studied to be one of least preferred fonts. Verdana was studied to be the best overall fonts according to participants of this study according to choice. This probably is because it read at the fastest pace and was a very legible font to participants.

Although this study held many different control trials, it was a very small experiment, which is a factor that weakens the reliability and efficiency of the data of this study. So, to make sure this study wasn’t an anecdote or the results came from chance, I looked up two more similar studies on typography.

readbility-3-81e18538cd3698f3574a2e3d733b77beThe second study I found seemed to be very similar to the first study that was conducted. However in this study, there was a smaller amount of participants (27) and were also older (between the ages 62 to 83). Also this study was different because it compared computer screen fonts and print fonts. More importantly, it was similar because the same fonts were studied using the same trials as the first study, and participants also had to have 20/40 vision or better.

The end results of this study generally found no remarkable difference between the computer screen and printed paper fonts. However, since this study primarily focused on elder people, it suggested that 14-pint sized font, either serif fonts (Times New Roman and Georgia) for reading speed, or sans serif fonts (Arial and Verdana) for font preference was found to be the best to use. But yet again, this was a poor study because it didn’t randomize or generalize the participants well due to its small size and close age range.

The third typography study I looked at was also small, comprising of 82 participants. However in this study, the subjects read stories that were typed in a variety of sizes and san serif and serif fonts. The study trialled both reading speed and comprehension. The study found smaller font sizes took longer to read, but not significantly longer. It also found no major differences in the font types, although serif fonts were only read slightly faster.typography-poster-wallpaper-4

The take away from these three studies is font type and size makes a difference, yet not one that is significant enough to actually matter. The experimental design was not big enough to rely on the conclusion of the studies. If this topic was of major concern, it would be suggested a bigger study be performed. However, it is apparent that these three studies all had similar end results, which shows consistency in the data. These studies probably won’t be of great enough significance to alter peoples preferred font. Although the first study showed something going on, according to the p values. However, the hypothesis must be a null hypothesis in this case because the study showed that it doesn’t really matter something was going on because there were no significant differences found within the variables tested in the study, and therefore this means the null hypothesis has been accepted.

Photo Sources:

Serif Font vs Sans Serif Font Infographic

2 thoughts on “Does the font you choose to use matter?

  1. Shannon Hughes

    I think this is a very strong blog. You were able to take a normal arguably boring topic such as font style and make it interesting by debating how it affects reading efficiency. Your studies your interesting and seemed to be well conducted. Finally your take home message perfectly matched the result of the studies: There is a difference, but not one large enough to matter that much. Here is a study that is researching the effect of color overlays on reading efficiency:
    I thought this topic is a complement to your topic.

  2. Matthew Jacobs-Womer

    Such a relevant topic when it comes to writing resumes and applications. I have always had a very strong focus on perfecting format for things like school papers and applications (use Times New Roman 99% of the time). But maybe this isn’t always best to use. The studies you discussed all focused on statistical responses to font and size. What I think would be every interesting is a study that measured peoples mental responses to different fonts and sizes. Imagine taking the same resume and putting it into various fonts and sizes and giving it to a vast amount of employers, then analyze if a specific font type/size received more positive feedback than others. I think this would be very a very interesting and beneficial topic to study.

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