Dutch creative agency Spranq developed a new font called the Ecofont – designed to reduce ink usage by 20% and so extend the life of ink cartridges and toner.

And it does that. So it’s good, right? Hmmmm. As you can see from the image above they took a font and ‘punched’ holes out of it – a cute idea used most effectively on racing cars and aeroplanes to reduce the weight of structural flat panels so a larger surface can be covered with a small footprint. However, this effect ‘lightens’ the colour or tone of the object – in this case a font.

Circles are used as punch-holes in real-world objects. Only they can distribute stress evenly around a hole, which is vital to retain the integrity of the structure. Because we don’t have to retain the integrity of a structure are there any other ways to achieve a similar effect?

‘You Can Read Me’ (below) was much loved by design students in the early 1990’s. It was designed by Malcolm Garrett, Cornel Windlin, Phil Baines, Pierre di Sciullo, and published by FontFont

You’d save way more than 20% of ink using this font, but readability is an issue. So I think we can safely say that if you’re going to save ink by removing parts of letters, then Ecofont is a better way to go.

But I can’t help thinking there’s a even easier – and more obvious way – to save ink. Bert on Springwise makes his opinion known:

What crap! I have Helvetica Neue, and I guess using the 35 thin or 25 ultrathin saves way more ink then this. They had to made the font too fat to be able to cut the holes out. And make a font that reads well yet saves paper.

Which made me laugh, but doesn’t really address the problem as changing font widths would ruin a layout. It’s not so much a solution, as a work-around.

In my opinion Sue Mathews – also on Springwise – nails it with this comment:

Cute hook, but why not just print 80 percent tints to save 20 percent ink?

I think that says it all really. Over-engineering a solution is bad. And let’s not forget that 80% on the final print run will save 20% of finished ink, but sampling layouts at 60%, 40%, or even 20% tints will help. And it’s worth doing this at home – printing any document in preview mode or by changing the colour of the font will make an immediate difference.

Over-engineering solutions to get to a sustainable world isn’t gong to help – luckily a few respondents on Springwise weren’t blinded by the over-engineering of Dutch agency Spranq. Unfortunately far too many people were as this Google search shows.

UPDATE: In 2010 Treehugger wrote about Century Gothic saving more ink than Ecofont. Still: 80% ink is consistent for any font.

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Oliver Payne is author of the behavioural communication book Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour: 19 Ways To Ask For Change published by Routledge, available in most countries.
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