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Opinions about Sans Forgetica

Sans Forgetica poll  

22 members have voted

  1. 1. Is Sans Forgetica a useful study tool?

    • Sounds convincing
    • Doesn’t sound convincing
    • Not sure

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I think this is BS. Yes, typography may be more readable when some text elements  draw more attention than others. Also we may remember something more easily when it is presented in an unconventional way. But this is nothing new. Many advertising campaigns use this mechanism. Breaking rules may be a means to stand out. But that does not mean that a ‘broken’ typeface is the ultimate way of ‘repairing’ our memory. The same goes for Sans Forgetica. The naming is a nice word game. Good marketing for RMIT. In the long run, as TiroTypeworks suggest, it will prove not to be of help anymore. Many other striking brand new display faces will do the same trick. In order to understand to how they will perform on longer terms, look at some Letraset or Mecanorna typefaces from the seventies, such as Lazybones, Via Face, Chromium or New Zelek. Once they were new they were conceived as hip and striking. Today they rest on the typographic graveyard. To speak with Frank Zappa, we may say that they are not dead, but they smell funny. At least. When the hype is over, Sans Forgetica will be forgotten too.

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I have more, but my main problems are these:

The conclusion is questionable. The original studies found that if you are forced to read slowly (in this case through a font change) you might remember the content better. That is not surprising at all. The conclusion from that should have just been: “You want to remember what you read? Read the text slowly and carefully!” Duh! You are in full control of that and you can even adjust it depending on the text or specific passage you read. With a font with bad legibility you cannot do that. In comparison to using your own ability to read carefully, a font is such a crude tool to potentially achieve this effect. 

Using that tools also has its costs. And that isn’t really mentioned. They only pitch the potential benefits – which might not even exist or be noticeable outside of lab experiments. I would love to hear from people who will actually try to read a considerable amounts of pages in that font. I’m confident in my expectation: they won’t get far. The costs of this straining reading experience will outweigh the potential benefits by a wide margin. And should someone actually stick with it and get used to reading the font without too much effort – well, then the necessary effect of slowing you down will be gone. 

It doesn’t need to be this font. The original studies who found this effect didn’t use Sans Forgetica and the effect isn’t based on that font. There are thousands of fonts, which will slow you down, because they are not meant for copy texts. Yet, their advertising paints it as if this effect is caused specifically by this font or at least that the font is optimized to achieve that effect. From a typography/type design point of view, I just don’t see why that should be the case. 

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There are other studies that call this whole approach into question (e.g. http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/10/25-1). It reminds me of the repeated attempts to assist dyslexics by making weird fonts. I'm sure it's well intentioned, but I don't think this sort of thing will ever actually be helpful.

  • Like 3
  • very interesting! 1
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I like that it was an interdisciplinary collaboration. 

But as Ralf notes, there was no design process here which optimized the effect.

And there was minimal scientific process — a more rigorous approach would have been to test existing hard-to-read fonts and attempt to identify qualities which make them perform well in the tests.

The inference that “stencil + backslant” is the route to memorability is spurious, as there are many, many ways in which type designs can be hard to read! We made quite a few fuck-ups back in the days of Deconstruction, Post-modernism and Grunge. A couple of mine: Artefact and Morphica, and of course Phil Baines’ ff-you-can-read-me, which Forgetica called to mind.



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I think that, like most things, it depends on the person! If you think it will help, then it probably will. If you think it's nonsense, it probably won't help you remember anything, and instead will frustrate you.
That said, I might give it a try if I have to memorize something, just for the fun of it.

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Please excuse my French, as we might say in Canada, but this is complete bullshit. If I have understood correctly, they only compared it with Arial in reading tests. There are certainly a number of faces which would come out on top in such a comparison. I saw another readability test where Park Avenue was compared with Arial. Arial was thereby “proven” to be the most readable face. Really – it was in the New York Times so it must be true. 

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Striking typefaces such as Sans Forgetica may be of help to make something stand out in relation to a running text, set in a ‘normal’ and legible typeface. Creating visual hierarchy between important and less important text or words and sentences to remember and background information is essential to typography. Normally this is done by using italic and/or bolder weights of the text typefaces, or when needed setting it in a larger size. By not setting all text in the same legible typeface at the same legible size, but by carefully creating a visual hierarchy between the different kinds of texts, we can make typography readable. Meaning to say that by using less legible typefaces such as bolder and italic weights, or even all-caps setting, which is less legible too, we can enhance the readability of a text. Forgetica takes this to an extreme. It is not legible, we would never set a long reading text in such a typeface. But it stands out and draws attention, so the information displayed through Forgetica draws more attention. Yes, there seems to be some proof that we remember information better when read in a less legible typeface. But as said before here, this goes for a lot of other weird typefaces too. And also there is no proof that Forgetica would perform better than other typefaces for which the same seems to be true. Like Haettenschweiler in the case Kevin Larson (Microsoft) presents here in his talk at ATypI Antwerp at 0.20h: 

On the other hand, one of the things argued here in this talk is that when information is displayed in a non-legible typeface, the expectations of the reader concerning the complexity of that information also change. Not surprisingly, in a negative way … So the may even be a drawback of a typeface such as Sans Forgetica. When it takes a reader more time to read something, that information may be remembered better, but when the reader perceives that information as more complicated than other information, it becomes questionable wether typefaces such as Haettenschweiler, Brush Script (als discussed in the talk by Kevin Larson) and Sans Forgetica are of any help at all in really transferring information.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 year later...

Scientific study with over 800 participants finds:


… we examined the extent to which Sans Forgetica, a newly developed font, improves memory performance – as the creators of the font claim. Across four experiments, we set out to replicate unpublished findings by the font’s creators. … Although subjects rated Sans Forgetica as being more difficult to read than Arial, Sans Forgetica led to equivalent memory performance, and sometimes even impaired it. These findings suggest that although Sans Forgetica promotes a feeling of disfluency, it does not create a desirable difficulty or benefit memory.


  • Like 1
  • amusing 1
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