back to article 'Switch to Century Gothic to save the planet'

A university CIO says that sysadmins determined to do their bit for the environment - and save cash on printer consumables - should switch fonts wherever possible to Century Gothic. Diane Blohowiak, Director of Computing and Information Technology at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, says she has switched the college's …


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  1. Seanmon

    Or... could not print the email?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less ink maybe, but more paper!

    With a quick test in Word, I see the carefully chosen string 'ewrtwerfasdf' as taking up about 1 's' more space in Century Gothic than Arial (by which I mean, I can add an 's' to the end of it in Arial and it's the same length as it was in CG).

    I'm pretty sure that the extra paper usage far outweighs any cost or environmental saving in the reduced quantity of ink...

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Finally, someone with enough common sense to actually test a theory, and criticise it... even if they do post as AC.

      Now, why didn't they recommend printing in size 2 font and carrying around a magnifying glass?

    2. Simon Cresswell

      Points are everything

      I just did a back to back in Word too - CG at 12 pt is about 1 pt larger than Arial - reduce it to 11 and it's similar - how many users will adjust the font size?

      So if you really must print something, do it in 6pt and buy a magnifying glass...

      1. Marcus Aurelius
        Thumb Down

        Failed Eco analysis

        You haven't figured in the economic cost of the production and transport of the magnifying glass to the end user, plus the extra calories which may (or may not) be consumed by the user wielding the magnifiying glass.

        1. Simon Cresswell

          Yes But...

          You can offset the calories by claiming they help a Government backed dictat to lose weight so don't be such a burden on the NHS, thereby saving energy in hospitals.

      2. Rafael 1
        Thumb Up

        Good idea!

        "So if you really must print something, do it in 6pt and buy a magnifying glass..."

        ... and go read it on a very sunny place. Yes, with the sun at your back. Notice the very bright point of light on the paper? Is it too bright? Douse the paper in gasoline and it will disappear.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          wait a mo

          was that flamebait?

    3. Ian Halstead
      Gates Horns

      Good point

      Good point, although the larger x-height of the lower case characters means that the point size can be dropped without affecting legibility. This should more than make up for increased line lengths.

      Arial has been described as Helvetica without the style. Ouch. (Hence Bill, as MS helped to popularise it)

    4. Greg J Preece

      Possibly, but!

      As paper comes from tree farms these days, surely the best way to get more planted is to waste more paper?

    5. The Other Steve
      Thumb Up

      Exactly so!

      " could not print the email?"

      Bloody right.

      I mean seriously "says she has switched the college's email system from Arial to Gothic" was the last sentence I was expecting to see in that story. I mean FFS, if printing your email is using to much ink, don;t change the font, slap the idiots who feel the need to print every email. Make it policy that your default is "don't print email", with a side helping of "if we catch you printing email that is in any way profligate or unnecessary (i.e. most of them) it's a disciplinary for you."

      Ahh! The red mist is descending ...

      [corporate flashback]

      I hate people who print emails. Hate them. They are evil. I understand that some things need to become matters of record and must be filed, but this does not give you an excuse to turn up out of the fucking blue and monopolise the floor's only bastard printer for SIX FUCKING HOURS. YOU UTTER UTTER BASTARDS!


      Ah, better.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    OK, I have switched font on my email and printed my first what about the A4 sheet of paper that only has 2 lines of print on it?

    Perhaps we should revert to rolls of paper as previously found in fax machines too...currently hacking at my printer to make that work

    Anon as I live in a "Greeny" area and don't want to get lynched

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    and even trounces a well-known (though unnamed) "eco font"

    that would be "eco font" then?

  5. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Sample please!

    For those of us who have no idea what "century gothic" looks like (but who knew helvetica long before they ever cloned it and called it "arial")!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Printer manufacturers won't like this

    Considering printers are generally sold on the cheap and subsidised through cartridge sales, I wonder if we'll soon see Century Gothic being converted on the fly to something more cartridge-sales-friendly.

    1. Marky W

      Lazy Bar Steward

      If you're here on an IT site, I assume you can work Google, or even navigate to the modern-day wonder that is Wikipedia (which despite its myriad faults, is more than good enough for this).

    2. gotes


      What we need is wipe-clean re-usable paper!

      It amazes me how much I see being printed out, only to be thrown in the bin without being read.

      Or people printing an entire 40 page document when only one page is actually relevant.


      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        Re-usable Paper Is Easy, Just...

        ...turn off the fuser.

        Don't forget the microparticle breathing filters.

    3. Captain TickTock

      How is that different from...

      printing in draft mode?

    4. Anonymous Coward

      yes, like 72 pt bold

      There now. can you finally read it?

  7. Nigel Campbell

    I think it would probably use more paper overall

    If I copyfit a lorem ipsum passage of Century Gothic (which looks like it's a knock off of Avant Garde Gothic) at 10 points it takes up about 10% more space than the same thing in 10pt Arial (11 and a bit vs. 10 and a bit lines). At a guess I'd say that the 10% extra paper usage would substantially outweigh any savings in the ink coverage.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      And that doesn't grow on trees

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Yes, but.

      I thought that, but it does specifically say that they've done it for email and most of such print on one page (or more usually the top 10 or fewer lines of one page) in any font at around the 10/12 point size. So this argument's moot, bar for the trivial case of the odd very log one that happens to be exactly the right length to throw a second page when printed in CG that would not have been thrown in Arial.

      I'm more interested in how they (or whoever) found this. Presumably someone, somewhere printed off the same several thousand pages of text in umpteen different fonts, carefully measuring the ink use for each run. I guess that to save the planet you have to kill it a bit first....

      I'm also a shade ticked off that the winner didn't turn out to be Comic Sans. The indignant flamefest around here at the serendipitous confluence of two pet hates prevelant amongst the assembled El Reg commentards (ecofiddling and Comic Sans) would have been a joy to behold.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Yes, but...

        "Presumably someone, somewhere printed off the same several thousand pages of text in umpteen different fonts, carefully measuring the ink use for each run."

        Hopefully they used a virtual printer driver to produce bitmaps simulating printouts, because not only would it be greener that way, it would also be much quicker to measure with a little program counting dots....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Is this a Windows only font?

    It doesn't show up in Neooffice or anything else on my Mac.

    Clearly I could install this additional font, but I'm reluctant to use a font other users might not have by default, when I can use Arial or Times New Roman, that I know they will.

  9. AgeingBabyBoomer

    Font not the problem

    Inkjet inks are mostly water, a little electrolyte and some dye or pigment, thus making it some of the most lucrative clooured water on the planet,

    Added to which the printer makers have gone down the route of high-tech, expensive self-destructing cartridges in a wilful and wasteful attempt to garner profit over hardware sales.

    I think legislation to make cartridges non-disposable and refillable, coupled with bulk availability of vendors ink would save a hell of a lot more cash and resources than any amount of tinkering with fonts.

    Chances of it happening - close to zero.

    Vive la corpocracie.


    1. Svein Skogen

      re: "Windows-only"?

      Well, it's (as far as I can recall) in opentype format on the Font Folio CD (I'm not sitting near it now, so I can't verify).

      I prefer the Schoolbook variant (I prefer antiqua-fonts over grotesque), and both have the ability to be readable at a full two points smaller size than their "windowsified" variants (arial and times), even of you use a very tight pair-kerning.


    2. Anonymous Coward

      as a reult of which

      Printers are crap and don't hold up well.

      Cartridges are small and not interchangeable.

      Consumer takes it in the posterior.


  10. John 62

    Save your brain, switch almost anything other than Arial!

    Arial's biggest problem is that it is clear and legible and you don't notice the flaws unless it's huge. I find Arial's G, R and r glyphs quite painful to look at.

    Though I do wish there weren't so many minor variations on Futura.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I can read a few hundred pages of something printed using let's say Times in a day without any problem. 20 pages of Ariel is a guaranteed headache. Agree - anything but ariel. It should be banned :)

      1. MonkeyBot

        Definitely not

        If you find Times easier to read than Arial, you're in a minority of the population. Same goes if you find 10-12pt comfortable to read.

        With Arial, the letters are spaced further apart so if the area of your retina that's clear enough to read with is quite small, you don't get as many letters/words in each picture and your brain has to do more work to process the images. On the other hand, if the light-detecting cells are large, you get a lower resolution and need more space between the letters to distinguish them easily.

        The problem with Century Gothic is that there's not enough difference between the letters and they're wide so you get fewer words for each picture your eyes take.

        1. Poor Coco

          “Letter Spacing” ≠ readability

          The “spacing of the letters”, i.e. the overall tracking of the typeface, has a fairly minor effect on the readability of said face. Using a proper typographically-sensitive application like a page layout package, you can adjust the tracking over a wide range and until the glyphs are actually colliding or becoming so separated that they don't read as a unified whole, the difference in readability is very slight. Besides, you get a greater variation in overall tracking when you use full-justified text vs. left-justified/rag-right alignment than you would switching between two similar faces such as Arial vs. Helvetica. Long story short*, the effect of character spacing on readability is small compared to the design of the typefaces themselves.

          And that's where, as others have pointed out, Arial earns a monumental fail. Its glyphs are really bush-league compared to the craftsmanship of Helvetica. Its ubiquity is a rematch of VHS-vs.-Beta; the crappier one won despite a four-decade lead by the better typeface. Who wants to put MS on trial for crimes against typography?

          Now, in terms of saving ink, approaches like EcoFont are a silly idea. With the resolution of modern inkjet and laser printers, simply having a printer driver that substitutes a 90% screen on type will reduce ink usage for any typeface without a loss of readability (except in really tiny type). My 11-year-old HP LaserJet 6MP has been able to do this from the get-go... and I can also get ten reams printed from a single cartridge most of the time. Try THAT on an inkjet: you'll have about nine blank reams at the end, or you'll have paid five times as much in consumables.

          So, if your goal is economy, buy a laser printer. Use the eco-printing mode when the purpose is documentation rather than perfect appearance. And don't print unless you have to.

          * I know, too late now.

        2. Maliciously Crafted Packet

          Arial for screen & Times for print?

          Im sure I read somewhere that san serif fonts like Arial, Verdana, Helvetica are more suited for on screen reading and serif fonts such as Times and Palatino were better for print.

          Can any knowledgeable typographical expert confirm or debunk this? I would be interested to know if this is true or not.

          1. GrahamT

            serif, san serif and fixed spacing

            I am definitely not a typographical expert, but on a technical writing course I once took, we were told variable spaced fonts are easier to read than fixed, and serif fonts are easier to read than san-serif. I seem to remember that the difference is about 10% faster reading speed between each.

            (Broadsheet) Newspapers know this, which is why they use san-serif headlines (eye catching, but short) and serif for body text (easy to read for long passages) - which is where Times Roman came from. (Roman because it uses the latin letter forms, in contrast to gothic, etc.) They never use fixed space fonts.

            Worst of all for reading ease is ALL CAPS FIXED SPACING (anyone else remember Telex/Teletype?) at about 50% reading speed of Times Roman mixed case.

            1. Quirkafleeg

              Desktop fonts

              I'm presently using Deja Vu Sans Bold for window titles and Deja Vu Serif Condensed for my desktop font, mainly because I decided that I'd had enough of the similarity between ‘I’ and ‘l’. Works well with plain anti-aliasing; none of this horrible highly noticeable colour-fringing nonsense.

          2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: San-serif for screen and Serif for print

            I'm no expert either but I've heard the same. The point, apparently is that the serifs are good if you have the resolution to display them properly, but bad if you don't. With things like ClearType (hold the flames, it works for some people) and higher resolution screens, the rule is probably less true than it was twenty years ago. In another twenty years' time we'll probably all be using a seriffed font on screen for normal text.

  11. 1924MG

    Good idea but CG not the answer

    I like Century Gothic but it's not a great choice as a body text font. If you really must have a lighter weight font for print, use something like helvetica ultra light.

  12. Andre 3

    Neither font nor ink the problem...

    Just don't print it, then you save electric AND forests. Everyone wins.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...waste electricity reading it on screen.

  13. John Angelico

    Isn't it a bit early...

    ...for April?

    The duffel coat, please.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Please don't print this e-mail

    I once found a single sheet of paper lying next to the printer. All it had written on it was "Please think of the environment before printing this e-mail." with "Pg. 3" at the bottom...

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Turn down the resolution

    Seems to me that the 'ecofont' product is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

    If you really must print so much, why not switch to a a lower DPI print, or set inkjets to draft mode.

    Everything prints quicker thereby using less electricity(possibly), and less consumable material.

  16. davefb

    Well not printing is the best

    but a quick google got this

    with times NR as the base, arial uses more ink , courier new is a lot less ( of the common fonts).

    Quite interesting analysis as well.. As it says, m$ or apple could have a nice 'greenwash' by working out a nice looking 'eco' font and spacing as default for their Office packages..

    Oh and obviously 'different printer font to save ink' is a patent..

  17. kissingthecarpet

    Good excuse to ban serif fonts

    like Times Old Old Roman. All that curly shit belongs in the century before last.

    Verdana's OK for screens, but why print almost anything off ...... ever

    (PS I hate Comic Sans as well)

    1. Poor Coco

      How 'bout a bit of education?

      Serif fonts are an excellent choice for long passages of text, provided they are rendered in sufficient resolution to render the details properly. The "curly shit" provides greater definition and significantly improves readability. There's a reason why the first commercial sans-serif font was called Grotesque.

      That said, Times New Roman is as bad a knockoff of real Times Roman as Arial is of Helvetica. Use quality typefaces, you'll get better results.

      And on the off chance that you actually decide to seek some education (unlikely I know), then read the first half of Eric Gill's brilliant "Essay on Typography". He explains the logic and history of typeface design from the point of view of a master.

      Don't bother with the latter half of the book — he gets carried away, and actually states that you cannot consider yourself a typographer until you have not only designed your own type by cutting metal movable-type characters, but you also have to actually grind your own pigments. So, yah, while Gill unquestionably understands type, he's also a bit of a nut case. :-)

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        If You Ever...

        ...had to read through several paragraphs of sans-serif type, you just know it sux.

        The reason the brain likes a serif is that the optic nerve pre processes the retinal pixel map into wavelets representing "roundness," "pointiness," "triangleness," and other higher order constructs. Serifs introduce more information at this level.

        This is especially important when peering through 211 filters.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re- How 'bout a bit of education?

        Yeah, he was a bit of a nut case in other areas as well, as he'd screw anything that wasn't tied down, and even then he'd have a go.

  18. Andrew Yeomans

    They are advising Century Gothic 11pt

    See for the suggestion to change the font size in Word and Excel. That's close to Arial 12 pt.

    Taking an identical sample of text at *screen resolution*, the average colour of Arial 12 was 23.6/255 black, Century Gothic 11 was 22/255 black. So CG11 was 93.2% as dark as Arial12. Readability seemed comparable. If anyone wants to repeat as higher magnification they might get a closer approximation to the print ink savings.

  19. Number6

    Monospace Fail

    I print mine in Courier, none of this proportional crap for email or usenet (remember that?) here.

    Plain text, that's all you need for an email.

  20. collateral damage


    The best solution would certainly be to print only what you really need as hardcopy (usually not even half of what is printed in the average office is even read - based on unscientific observations), but the following sentence amazed me:

    "She says that printer ink costs her department $10,000 per gallon, though obviously it is supplied in smaller units."

    Is she really saying that a University is pissing expensive ink on paper when there are cheaper (toner based) printing options? Time for a budget cut me thinks.


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