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Transportation Science

MIT Researchers Show Dash Font Choice Affects Distraction 147

bdking writes "A typeface family commonly found on the devices installed in many modern cars is more likely to cause drivers to spend more time looking away from the road than an alternative typeface tested in two studies, according to new research from MIT's AgeLab." It seems that the closed letter forms of Grotesque type faces require slightly more time to read than open letter forms of Humanist type faces, just enough that it could be problematic at highway speeds.
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MIT Researchers Show Dash Font Choice Affects Distraction

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  • by pieleric ( 917714 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:15AM (#41461173) Homepage

    The summary links to Grotesque, but what they use in the article is "Square Grotesque", a modified version which is _really_ square and IMHO hard to read (and which apprently quite appreciated by car manufacturers). Concluding every Grotesque font is hard to read is definitely not what the research demonstrated.

    The best is to have a look at the paper, which has good examples. A similar font can be found on wikipedia there: [] (but I find this one is still slightly easier to read).

  • by A Friendly Troll ( 1017492 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:18AM (#41461189)

    Read the PDF, people, damn it, before jumping to conclusions.

    The fonts used in the experiment were Eurostile as the grotesque and Frutiger as the humanist. Both of those are sans serif.

    This is about shapes, form and spacing.

  • Re:Old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kenoli ( 934612 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @05:03AM (#41461365)

    This isn't exactly a new finding. Typographers have known this for over a century, if not multiple centuries. Why do you think newspapers are printed in seriffed typefaces?

    This research deals with the shapes, proportions, and spacing of characters in square grotesque and humanist typefaces. It doesn't have anything to do with serifs.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @05:58AM (#41461657)

    Serif fonts are easier to read, especially large blocks of text. The serifs "lead your eyes" from one letter to the next, and help your eye group the words.

    Actually, that's an old theory that has been solidly debunked [] on both counts at this point.

    For a start, based on experimental research, we know that people don't actually move their eyes continuously across the text as we read. Instead, our eyes make short jumps called saccades, fixating on one point on the line and then another a few characters further along. That immediately makes any argument based on serifs "guiding" anything suspect.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:53AM (#41463423)

    Perhaps you didn't notice the link I posted to Alex Poole's site, where one of the first paragraphs says "In 2003 as part of my master’s degree I reviewed over 50 empirical studies in typography and found a definitive answer" [emphasis added]? It then goes on to describe that work in a lot more detail, complete with numerous citations. I've read some of Alex's work, and I've read quite a few of the other pieces of works he cites. You obviously haven't, but hey, if you prefer to trust in "another huge swath of scary subjective human experience" rather than empirical data collected across a broad set of scientific experiments, knock yourself out.

    However, I suggest that you would be more convincing to others if, instead of attempting exactly the kind of unsourced pseudo-science you seem to be accusing me of and then throwing in a strawman or two at the end, you actually bothered to read the work I pointed to before. We don't have to guess at how these effects work or appeal to old wives' tales from the 1800s. We have detailed, properly conducted experiments using techniques like eye tracking and even updating text on a screen as fast as someone is actually reading it to determine what we really do see and how much our brain is filling in for us. Here's another page [] that describes some more experiments on related topics, which provide further examples of how the people researching this field reach the kinds of conclusions they do.

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