The Right Font Could Save Your Life
Good design can be important for many reasons. It can be critical to the success of your business, your career, and your sense of creative fulfillment. But you probably don't often think of design as critical to your survival. But when it comes to automotive displays, and how they affect driver distraction and reaction time, design and typography can literally be the difference between life and death.
To determine exactly how typography can affect drivers, the MIT AgeLab and Monotype Imaging conducted studies to determine if the use of certain typefaces can mitigate driver distraction.
The results indicate that use of a humanist font like Frutiger can reduce the time male drivers spend glancing at in-vehicle displays (aka "glance time") by more than 10% when compared to a square grotesque font like Eurostile. Similar results were seen for males in total response time and number of glances. However, results for female drivers were quite different. The impact of fonts was more modest or not apparent for women.
“The study indicates that the right typefaces can make a difference in reducing the amount of time not focused on the road, and therefore, gets us closer to our goal of improving driver safety,” said Bryan Reimer, research scientist at MIT AgeLab and one of the principal researchers of the project. “With digital information and entertainment increasingly available through in-vehicle displays, we know that text in cars is here to stay. Given this reality, text needs to be as easy to read as possible. Your eyes need to get back on the road very quickly for obvious reasons.”
If you're interested in digging into the details of the studies, you can check out the whitepaper, An Evaluation of Typeface Design in a Text-Rich Automotive User Interface (36 pp. PDF).
Here's a video produced by Monotype and the MIT AgeLab describing the studies and their findings.