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Cutting gov’t spending is so easy a 6th-grader can do it

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Peter Suderman at Reason Hit & Run reported:

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did.

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a school science project, he measured how much ink was used …

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes.

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research.

Young Mirchandani took on the more arduous task of analyzing the printer ink usage of the federal government’s General Services Administration and determined that it could cut ink costs by 30% — $136 million per year — by simply changing fonts. State governments, according to his calculations, could save an additional $234 million.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn’t count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir’s work as “remarkable.” But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn’t seem terribly interested in pursuing them.

I’m impressed by Suvir Mirchandani’s efforts. But I’m also a bit disappointed. I suspect his findings are the death knell for my crusade to have all government publications printed in Comic Sans.

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2 Responses to “Cutting gov’t spending is so easy a 6th-grader can do it”

  1. Billll said

    Garamond is not only thinner, it’s physically smaller
    Comments here don’t seem to allow it but Ariel regular in 12 pt is about the same size as Garamond in 14.

    The government could save the same money by reducing whatever it uses by 2 points across the board.

    • Richard said

      Garamond has a smaller x-height. That’s the height of letters with no extenders, like x, a, c, etc., or the height of the bowl on b, d, p, and q.

      Since most letters are x-height letters, a small x-height font looks visually smaller. And in fact, on a computer screens uch a font is harder to read than a large x-height font like Arial, Lucida, or Tahoma at the same size.

      Compare the total height, including extenders (the vertical line extending below the baseline on the p and above the bowl on the b). 12 pts is 12 pts. (1 inch = 72 pts)

      But yeah, they could save a bunch of money by using 6-pt type. And we geezers would file a class-action lawsuit for not accommodating our age-related vision disability.

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