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Make ink cartridges last longer by changing fonts

Published: Monday, Nov. 5 2012 10:58 a.m. MST

Printer ink can be expensive — and some fonts use more ink than other fonts.

Daan Berg via Flickr

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Before you print a copy of this story to put on your refrigerator, you may want to know how the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay saved 30 percent in ink costs. An Associated Press story says the college "has switched the default font on its email system from Arial to Century Gothic."

NPR talked with Matt Dornbush, a biology professor at the college, who came up with the idea. Dornbush read about a specialty typeface called Ecofont, which reduces ink usage by having tiny holes in each letter. The school's computer technicians discovered that just using an established font like Century Gothic could accomplish savings on its own.

Printer.com did actual tests to see how much ink different fonts could save: "Arial, reigning as the most popular font, was used as the 'zero' measurement, against which nine other fonts were tested. The clear winner was Century Gothic, which returned 31 percent savings in both printers. For the average private user, printing approximately 25 pages per week, this will easily generate a net reduction of $20 in a year. A business user, printing approximately 250 pages per week, could save $80. If your organization uses multiple printers, you can save hundreds of dollars per year doing nothing more than picking a more economical font."

Printer.com found that Century Gothic even beat Ecofont in their tests — but only by .02 percent.

"For those who require a more 'traditional' look," Printer.com said, "Times New Roman provides a good balance between style and savings."

Flowing Data tried its own ink test using ballpoint pens. By using a sample text, designers Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth scribbled in the fonts using pens. In this test, Garamond used the least ink — although Century Gothic was not used in this test. The worst ink hog was Impact.

There are other ways of saving ink, such as using a smaller font size and using a printer's draft setting. But there is one danger in using Century Gothic if you love trees. It is thinner, true, and uses less ink. But, as type designer Mark Simonson told NPR, "It also sits a little bit larger. So it would actually take up more space. So occasionally, you might need more paper for a printout if it pushes the document over a page."

A flier from the EPA talks about the dilemma this creates: "(Using Century Gothic) may lead to more paper use, thereby negating the ink savings due to increased paper purchases."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

TWITTER: @degroote

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