Twenty years ago or so I cajoled the advertising rep from R&D Magazine into lending me a binder filled with several inches of ‘white papers’ of the publisher’s research on readership. Their data came primarily from A/B (split) testing—not very sophisticated but effective for simple comparisons. One question I resolved was whether to use serif or sans serif font. The research showed significant advantages to headlines being san serif, such as Arial font, and text in serif—for example, Times New Roman. I’ve stuck with that ever since,* except for the fonts themselves changing over to Calibri and Cambria—the defaults in current versions of Microsoft Office software.
However, now I am set back by this news from Wall Street Journal that Calibri comes up short—30 percent to be precise—versus Arial and other common fonts, at least so far as the State of Michigan is concerned. The inventor of Calibri, Lucas de Groot, justifies his type being smaller because of its high readability per square inch. Although this seems plausible to me, I would like to see the research supporting this assertion.
For an interesting detailing of fonts—serif versus san serif and neo-grotesque versus humanist—see this blog by Laurie Israel Think.
*For writings that will likely be read in printed form, that is. Having seen research like this recent study from the JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, I believe that words written in a sans serif font provide a significant advantage for messages read on computer screens, such as blogs and email. Thus for these purposes I prefer using Calibri exclusively—ditto for presentations projected on screen, for example—using Powerpoint.