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Posted 26 September 2012
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Can the typeface used in a car dashboard reduce the amount of time a driver takes to read it? A new collaborative study between MIT’s AgeLab and Monotype is researching that very question and opening the door to new opportunities in user interface research in cars.

Among the findings, the research determined that something as simple as the choice of typeface (humanist vs. grotesque) could reduce the amount of ‘driver distraction’ significantly:

In both studies, the humanist font significantly reduced the amount of time participants glanced away from the road. It’s an extremely subtle change that could have far-reaching effects: Reducing glance time by just 10.6 percent represents 50 feet of highway travel, which could be the difference between a rear-end collision and a close call.

Even more interesting, however, is the surprising data indicating that different typefaces may affect the glance times in males, but not necessarily in females.

While the article only mentions the use of Eurostile (grotesque) and Frutiger (humanist) typefaces, I would be curious to know how other data points may affect legibility as well (i.e. uppercase vs. lowercase, amount of tracking and leading, sans serif vs. serif). It is also important to note the call for car manufacturers and regulatory agencies to “use science to inform their designs” and increase our general understanding of causes for distractions while driving.

2 Responses to “Unit 3, Blog Entry 1: Typography In Cars”

  1. Joel Says:


    Hello David,

    I ran into this article twice and almost posted about it. It’s finally time that engineers and designers started looking at interfaces like that. I know it’s a new technology, but it’s been around long enough that it is now being integrated into cars, and screen resolutions shouldn’t be a problem anymore. I think one of the problems is that with new technologies like this visual factors like that aren’t taken into consideration. Getting the product out as fast as they can is.

    Joel

  2. Roberto Says:


    Hey David –

    That is pretty amazing, and logical to pursue a study like this for car manufacturers. Anything to reduce the time of a driver taking off their eyes off the road is crucial. You have to take into consideration also, how often do you look at the type in your car. Maybe to check speed…your miles you’ve driven, your radio station/title of track. There are other distractors that exist in cars like GPS, iPod interface, DVDs, etc that are causing the driver to look away. I think if we make it easier to read certain things while driving we may just be helping a problem of distraction instead.
    Roberto