Hard-to-Read Fonts Promote Better Recall – HBR

Fonts that are hard to read promote better recall of the message, according to research reported in March’s Harvard Business Review

Daniel Oppenheimer with colleagues Connor Diemand-Yauman and Erikka Vaughan found that students presented with material written in hard to read font (grey, 12-point Comic sans) recalled 14% more facts than students given material in pure-black, 16-point Arial.

Of course, the subjects were required to read the material in those tests.  It is less clear how you might use this in a marketing context where the goal is usually to remove any potential point of resistance to your audience receiving your message.

The knee-jerk reaction is to assume this means that there is nothing of use to marketers here.  However, I wonder if there is a way to use this in a subtle way.  For example, what would be the impact of using a slightly less clear font for highlights or summary points?  Or if those important points are in the same font but a colour that offers less contrast to the main text: could such a point be both more appealing (drawing the eye) but still require the fractionally greater degree of concentration that makes the fact register more readily retained?


About Andrew Munro

An independent business consultant, interim manager and writer, Andrew operates through his company, Burning Pine Ltd (http://burningpine.com).
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