your input please: font

We have a small debate underway in my day job regarding font. Specifically, which should be our default or standard font for analyses, presentations, etc. This led me to the question: when it comes to font choices, where do best practices end and personal preferences begin?

I'm aware of some relevant research conducted by psychologists Song and Schwarz in 2008 at the University of MI at Ann Arbor, where they showed college students recipes for sushi and asked them to estimate 1) how long the recipe would take them to make and 2) how inclined they were to do so. The only thing that varied between the recipes was the font in which it was written. What they found in a nutshell was that the fussier the font, the more difficult the students judged the recipe and the less likely they were to want to attempt making it. For me, the translation for data visualization broadly is that the more complicated it looks, the less likely your audience is to take time with it.

But back to my specific question: if both fonts are straightforward to read (no legibility issues), how do you choose?

To try to answer this question, I initially planned on doing some research; I quickly grew impatient with this. My brief attempt in Google searches taught me that there is no shortage of font fodder on the internet. There are conflicting lists of the "best" fonts (example). Others have done much more research in this area than I care to (example). I was struck that there don't even seem to be consistent opinions on questions I thought would be easy (e.g. serif vs. sans serif... sans, obviously, right? not according to Wikipedia).

So rather than continue down this slightly frustrating path, I thought I'd pose the problem to you to see if any consensus in the form of the wisdom of crowds emerges. Here are the fonts we're considering:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
1234567890 (Calibri)

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
1234567890 (Open Sans)

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
1234567890 (Arial)

Specifically, when it comes to the open debate at work: my colleague and I are in agreement that Calibri should not be our default font. I think our reasoning when you boil it down is probably simply because we don't like it vs. anything scientific. Where we differ is on the question of Open Sans vs. Arial. I won't bias you by revealing which I prefer (though my sans serif comment and the text on this blog serve as a pretty big hint).

My questions to you are: If you were weighing in on this decision, what factors would you consider? Which font do you prefer? Why? Leave a comment with your thoughts!



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