Ugly = memorable?

Posted by Lucia Davis on January 12th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

On Sunday, I read a Seed Magazine article entitled “The Revenge of Comic Sans.” It spotlighted the recent study that found people have better recall of documents written in “less-legible, less-elegant fonts.” To quote:

“The researchers, led by Connor Diemand-Yauman, asked 28 student volunteers to read about hypothetical alien species from a sheet printed in either 16-point Arial, 12-point Bodoni, or, yes, 12-point Comic Sans. The larger Arial font was much more legible than the other two versions, but in a quiz 15 minutes later, students reading the Bodoni or Comic Sans versions were significantly more accurate in recalling details about the aliens.

In a follow-up, in collaboration with an Ohio high school, the researchers made actual classroom handouts less legible, either by setting them in smaller, harder-to-read fonts (including Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva, and once again, Comic Sans), or by moving them around while duplicating them on a copy machine. Once again, out of a pool of 220 participating students, those who studied from the less-legible materials did better on tests than those with more-legible handouts.”

It could be argued that these uglier fonts take longer to read, the time spent improving comprehension, but still, the findings are interesting, especially when applied to website design and fonts.

If I see a website in Comic Sans (that’s not something having to do with children...OK even if it is...), I judge. As Myspace taught us, more is less when it comes to website design.

Obviously the goal for retail websites is not necessarily better recall -- whether a consumer remembers the description of a piece of clothing doesn’t really matter -- but for publishers (like us), anyone with an banner ad and many others, this information could be really useful. That said, what’s more important -- having people like your ads or remember what they say?

ed. note 1/17/2011 -- Could ugly fonts in banner ads help dimish so-called banner blindness ?

2 Responses to “Ugly = memorable?”

  1. Lisa K. says:

    When it came time to make a point about the digital marketing industry stepping up to the plate when it comes to creativty - PointRoll did exactly what the article suggest... we went ugly. And our creative agency had a BLAST doing it.


    Sure we wanted to be funny, but we also wanted to be memorable. I think it worked. The worst part is realizing websites really used to look like that!!!

    • Lucia Davis says:

      Oh man, that is fantastic!! What a great idea -- it definitely gets your point across. I especially like the group shot around the computer. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Websites have definitely come a looooong way. Someone recently pointed out to me that the official website for the movie Space Jam (Michael Jordan, cartoon evil aliens) is still up and in it's original, glorious state: http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/jam.htm. Worth checking out for a walk down memory lane/slap in the face for your eyes.

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