NPR logo

Changing Font To Save Ink

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Changing Font To Save Ink

Around the Nation

Changing Font To Save Ink

Changing Font To Save Ink

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A Wisconsin university has found a new way to cut costs with e-mail — by changing the font. The University of Wisconsin, Green Bay has switched the default font on its e-mail system from Arial to Century Gothic. The university says the change sounds minor, but it will save money on printer ink when students print out e-mails in the new font.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

A university in Wisconsin has decided to go gothic, but not in a medieval or ghoulish kind of way. The school changed the font in its email system, saying the move could save thousands of dollars in printer ink. From Wisconsin Public Radio, Patty Murray reports.

PATTY MURRAY: University of Wisconsin-Green Bay biology professor Matt Dornbush got an idea when he opened an issue of National Geographic and read an article about something called an eco-font.

Mr. MATTHEW DORNBUSH (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay): I thought, well, this is an easy solution that we could try to implement to our campus and save some serious money.

MURRAY: The eco-font uses less ink because each character, instead of being filled in, has lots of tiny circles. Printer ink adds up. A typical cartridge costs $30, and that translates to about $10,000 a gallon. So, Dornbush took the article to the school's computer technicians, but they found an even better solution: Century Gothic. That font uses about 30 percent less ink than the old Arial setting used for email.

Mark Simonson(ph) is a Minnesota-based type designer and font developer. He says Century Gothic is a good overall choice because it has a thinner print line, but he says the letters can be a bit wider.

Mr. MARK SIMONSON (Type Designer): It also sits a little bit larger. So it would actually take up more space. So occasionally, you might need more paper for a printout if it pushes the document over a page.

MURRAY: Simonson says the change to Century Gothic doesn't surprise him so much as the fact that people still print emails. The computer lab at UWGB is a busy place, but no one is using the printers. Student Kara Melchert says she submits most of her assignments online and rarely prints anything.

Ms. KARA MELCHERT (Student, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay): I would say I probably print maybe five or six pages a week, just to take notes onto.

MURRAY: She may not be printing much on this campus of 6,500 students but someone is.

Mr. THOMAS HARDEN (Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay): We spend approximately $100,000 per year on toner.

MURRAY: UW-Green Bay Chancellor Thomas Harden applauds the switch to a less ink-intensive computer font. Even if the school doesn't see a full 30 percent savings, he'll take it.

Mr. HARDEN: It would be a few thousand dollars a year, which is very helpful in this economy or any time.

MURRAY: Matt Dornbush, the biology professor who got this change started, says that's a good beginning, but he hopes for something more lasting. As students become acclimated to different fonts or even lower thermostat settings in the Wisconsin winter, he wants them to keep those habits when they graduate.

Mr. DORNBUSH: We're training the students who then go out into the workplace, and if they become used to things like that, this here or slightly colder offices or whatever, they're more likely to then implement these into the businesses and so forth when they leave here.

MURRAY: Dornbush acknowledges switching fonts won't save the planet, but if a little thing can save money and resources, why not?

For NPR News, I'm Patty Murray in Green Bay.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.