Fourteen-year-old middle school student Suvir Mirchandani created a ripple in the typography/science world last week by declaring that the US government could save $136 million per year in ink costs by switching fonts to Garamond:
Collecting random samples of teachers’ handouts, Suvir concentrated on the most commonly used characters (e, t, a, o and r).
First, he charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Then he measured how much ink was used for each letter, using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software.
Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font.
With this analysis, Suvir determined that using Garamond, with its thinner strokes, could reduce his school district’s ink consumption by 24%, saving as much as $21,000 annually.
Suvir’s and his teacher sought to publish the findings in the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded by a group of Harvard grad students in 2011. JEI provides a forum for the work of middle school and high school students using the same standards as academic journals, and each submission is reviewed by grad students and academics.
This research started out as Suvir’s science fair project. How awesome is that? It’s his own version of social good, mixing computer science with environmental sustainability. But….