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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 digitig ( 1056110 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:50AM (#41461303)
    I thought that was a matter of screen resolution. At the resolutions commonly available when most studies were done, serifs would have been hard to render accurately and consistently. Heck, even on the screen and size I am using to type this, if I switch to Times New Roman the anti-aliasing struggles with the serifs on 's' and 'n' with the result that they look blurry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:56AM (#41461341)

    I am blind for most font differences. I can not even see difference between hyped "MS core" fonts and "ugly KDE" fonts.

    Only time when I can see difference is when I swap them rapily in LibreOffice or when I change konsole to use bitmap font without smoothing as by default it use smoothed fonts.

    It is just ironic that I do lots of graphical arts for my profession, but when it comes to fonts, I am totally blind to see the "huge difference". Thats why I always ask someone else to pick fonts for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:56AM (#41461343)

    Gotta get that kerning [] right.

    Oh boy, I probably just killed Wednesday for a lot of people. Gooooodbye productivity! And website likely.

  • Funny story... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JimmyVolatile ( 2440274 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @05:54AM (#41461637)

    This has been "tested" around 2002 in Norway. A car registration plate font redesign was conducted to make all plates issued from that moment look more modern and stylish and a font similar to Eurostile were implemented. All in the name of creating a mono-space font which would make all plates equal width. ("IL 111111" would be just as wide as "MW 123456")
    Result: Numbers 3, 6, 8 and 9 went from being easily distinguishable at 80m+ to be undreadable by speed and toll cameras. You could pass speed cameras with little risk of getting fined and drive on any toll road for free. Sombody else would end up with the bill due to the misreading of the license plates.

    Scroll down to see examples here: []

    In 2004 they decided to go for Myriad with variable white-spacing instead. This has not yet been implemented :)

  • Re:Nice find but.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @06:33AM (#41461835)
    Too true, What bugs me these days is how many TV documentaries feature interviews with people who are driving cars. Stop talking to them and let them concentrate on driving. If you want to interview them, hire a bloody studio and sit them on a couch to do it - not while they're trying to guide 2 tonnes of metal through a busy intersection in town at 30 miles per hour!
  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @08:14AM (#41462343) Homepage

    Eurostile is a pretty terrible font

    Nothing wrong with Eurostile for what it is, just that in this case (where *any* tradeoff between legibility and style- however minor- might have an effect), it's probably not the best choice.

    In fact, I'd say the fact that it's still "functional-looking" enough is how you could imagine car manufacturers using it in a dashboard whereas (e.g.) a black letter, or cursive/joined-up "handwriting" font would be much worse, but obviously so (and hence not likely to be chosen and hence not an issue here).

    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

    This is true but incomplete; the study used Eurostile [] (apparently a Square Grotesque font), which is clearly less legible and a stronger example of those claimed issues than Helvetica []. Helvetica is still a "Grotesque" type font).

    I'm not saying that Helvetica is the perfect choice, or as good as a Humanist font, just that I suspect it doesn't suffer from this problem to anything like the same extent as Eurostile.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard