In 2018, a team at RMIT, Australia designed a new font to aid memory retention. Called Sans Forgetica, the broken-looking font was the first of its kind and was designed using ‘desirable difficulty’, a learning principle. Over a year later, a study summing up a series of four experiments has found that Sans Forgetica may not be serving the purpose it was designed for – remembering what you read.
The font was said to work by hitting the sweet spot between difficult and easy to read, thus drawing attention and helping memory retention. According to research by the original team, while 50% out of 400 participants remembered what they read in Arial font, 57% remembered facts written in Sans Forgetica.
The new study conducted jointly by researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato was made up of four experiments. Through the first one, the team concluded that in comparison to Arial, Sans Forgetica is harder to read. The second experiment was about recalling pairs of words, with people remembering more Arial pairs rather than the new font.
The third experiment in the study with 882 participants tested information recall. It was found that the font did not improve performance. The final experiment tested the understanding of concepts in both fonts. In both cases, participants showed an equal understanding of concepts.
“After conducting four peer-reviewed experiments into Sans Forgetica and comparing it to Arial, we can confidently say that Sans Forgetica promotes a feeling of disfluency, but does not boost memory like it is claimed to. In fact, it seems like although Sans Forgetica is novel and hard to read, its effects might well end there,” says Dr. Kimberley Wade, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.
The new study has been published in the journal Memory.