If you're a typography fan or you work as a graphic designer, you may have heard that researchers at Melbourne-based RMIT University developed what they consider a memory-boosting font. Called Sans Forgetica, the font has an 8° backslant towards the left and seems to have missing parts in each letter.
The font was developed as a joint collaborative project of a multidisciplinary team of designers and researchers from RMIT's School of Design and its Behavioural Business Lab, comprising Senior Marketing Lecturer (Experimental Methods and Design Thinking) and founding member of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab Dr Janneke Blijlevens, Lecturer in Economics and Member of the Behavioural Business Lab Dr Joanne Laban, and Stephen Banham, RMIT lecturer in typography and industry leader.
The typographic design specialists and psychologists involved combined together psychological theory and graphic design principles to design a font that should help people and in particular students working on their exams retaining more information and remembering more of their typed study notes.
The main point of the font is that, being incomplete, it slows down the reading process as the reader's mind encounters an obstruction and has got to complete the letters, a process that triggers memory.
Dr Blijlevens highlighted how typical fonts are very familiar and therefore readers often glance over them, but no memory trace is created. In the same way, if a font is too different, the brain can't process it and the information is not retained.
"Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention," Dr Blijlevens explains about this new font.
It took around six months to develop the font and there were three different versions tested: about 400 Australian university students were involved in a laboratory and online experiment launched by RMIT that discovered a small increase in the amount participants remembered – 57% of text written in Sans Forgetica compared with 50% in a plain Arial.
Now if Sans Forgetica's varying degrees of distinctiveness help readers dwelling longer on words, giving the brain more time to engage in deeper cognitive processing, the font could be used by students to retain notions, people studying foreign languages to speed up the learning process and elderly people suffering with memory loss.
Researchers highlight that the font is not ideal for novels but for short texts (and critics actually point out that, once you get used to the font, attention may wane again and the cognitive process may stall...), so you naturally wonder, would it be possible to develop new and more memorable logos for popular brands moving from Sans Forgetica? In a fashion industry going crazy for the smallest typographic improvement to visually attract the attention of consumers, Sans Forgetica may indeed become a new tool for commercially memorable messages.
Want to experiment with the font? Sans Forgetica is available free to download as a font and Chrome browser extension at sansforgetica.rmit, but if you want to use it for commercial purposes you should contact the research unit that developed it. Ah, don't forget to be quick before Off White's Virgil Abloh, a passionate fan of all things graphic, registers it as his own exclusive graphic design and then sues you for copyright infringement.