Just when the whole “millennials are the worst” trope is at its apex, Suvir Mirchandani, a 14-year-old kid from Pennsylvania, might be helping the U.S. government to save approximately $135 million bucks a year. How, pray tell? Well, it’s all due to a genius science fair project involving fonts, of all things. Apparently switching from whatever cash-guzzling font the government is currently using to Garamond can save us a butt-load of cash. Who knew that a font could be so expensive? What I love about this story is that it showcases a kid who was born and bred in the information age using that experience and knowledge to make the world a better place.
For the project, Mirchandani compared the price of ink with the number of documents the government prints each year, and realized how expensive the fonts currently being used were, due to the amount of space taken up. He was inspired to look into this when he tallied the amount of handouts he received each week from his school, Dorseyville Middle School. He realized that while everyone focuses on recycling, little is being done to research ways to reduce the amount of ink (and therefore paper) used in the first place. According to Mirchandani, “Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume.” To find ways to cut ink usage and therefore expenses, he looked at the most commonly used letters in the English alphabet – a, e, o, r and t, and then measured how much ink they use in the four most commonly used typefaces. He then tested these findings by printing out large sample letters in these fonts and weighing them. The winner? Garamond.
At this point, all this work was simply done to help his school save money. The idea to apply it to the U.S. government came up when Sarah Fankhauser, Harvard grad and co-founder of the Journal for Emerging Investigators (and might I add, another so-called “spoiled” millennial) challenged Mirchandani to test his findings on a larger scale. According to Fankhauser:
“We were so impressed. We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper.”
Of course, the government fuddyduddies aren’t as keen to embrace this brilliant idea. Even though the “radical” idea of changing and normalizing something as simple as a font shouldn’t be a difficult concept, Gary Somerset of the Government Printing Office seemed to be non-plussed. According to CNN, Somerset claims that their office is more “focused on switching to digital media” rather than changing fonts.
Seriously? How hard is it to change a damn font? Even if they really are focusing on digital means of conveying information (which I honestly hope is true, I mean, get with the program people!), this seems like a simple fix that could save a ton of money. And who better to bring about this kind of change than a much-maligned millennial. The information age has its advantages, and we’re finally starting to realize it.