Pa. Teen Says Font Change Could Save Millions

By NBC10.com Staff and Wire Reports
|  Monday, Mar 31, 2014  |  Updated 12:59 PM EDT
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Pa. Teen Says Font Change Could Save Millions

An example of the Garamond typeface.

A Pennsylvania teenager has published a study suggesting federal and state governments could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in printing costs by switching to a thinner typeface that uses less ink.

Suvir Mirchandani, 14, said he noticed there was plenty of talk at school about saving paper and he wondered about saving ink.

Suvir, who lives in the Township of O'Hara, just outside Pittsburgh, said Friday that the idea began when he was in middle school and he "noticed that some teachers used heavier fonts" for printing.

He said he was already interested in graphic design and used a software program to estimate how much ink different typefaces, or fonts, used.

"The data was really surprising to me," he said of how the differences added up, even for the printing done by his school district.

He expanded the study to look at potential savings by the federal government, and a new paper on his research was published this month in the Journal of Emerging Investigators, a peer-reviewed journal created for promising middle and high school students.

He found that the Office of Management and Budget had already estimated that federal agencies would spend about $1.8 billion in printing for this year and that ink was more expensive than paper on a per-page basis.

In the new paper, "A Simple Printing Solution to Aid Deficit Reduction," Suvir analyzed five documents produced by five U.S. government agencies and estimated how much ink would be used with three typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman and Century Gothic. The analysis estimated that using 12-point Garamond would save about 29 percent in ink costs.

Mirchandani concluded that switching to the thinner font could save the federal government $136 million a year -- 30 percent of its current ink budget of $467 million. The teen says should state governments follow suit, another $234 million could be saved. That brings the total projected savings to $370 million.

Suvir said his school district looked at the idea but hasn't been able to implement the switch.

"It didn't really catch on," he said. "I understand it's hard to make this kind of a change."

Still, he's happy that his work succeeded in "even just creating an awareness" of how much ink different typefaces use.

The Government Printing Office has praised Suvir's work and said it will review the printing suggestion.

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