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Sans Forgetica, a font designed to help you remember your study notes (sansforgetica.rmit)
502 points by lysp on Oct 4, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 174 comments

> Sans Forgetica is more difficult to read than most typefaces – and that’s by design. The 'desirable difficulty' you experience when reading information formatted in Sans Forgetica prompts your brain to engage in deeper processing.

But does the effectiveness of this hold up over time or will your brain get accustomed to the font after a while such that reading it eventually becomes no different than reading whatever font you used to use before?

I don't think it's true that all fonts eventually approach the same level of easy readability.

Yes, you will get better at reading this font than you were at reading this font initially, but probably you still won't be able to read it as fast as you can read some other font.

This font has easily distinguishable glyphs for all letters. Some fonts make "Ill" looks like ||| and it's still possible to read most texts written in such fonts easily. Considering that it's possible to learn to read a completely different alphabet, I'm not convinced that there's anything to font legibility besides familiarity, so long as all glyphs are distinguishable.

I agree. Maybe this effect will only work if you rotate fonts every so often to one you're not familiar with. If this effect works at all.

¡pɐǝɹ oʇ ɹǝpɹɐɥ uǝʌǝ ǝɹɐ sʇuoɟ pǝʇɐʇoɹ ʇnq

What is this black magic

Unicode has a lot of characters that look like latin characters upside down:

ƃop ʎzɐʃ ǝɥʇ ɹǝʌo sdɯnɾ xoɟ uʍoɹq ʞɔınb ǝɥʇ

I used the converter I found here: https://www.fileformat.info/convert/text/upside-down.htm

bɘɿoɿɿim ƚuodɒ ƚɒʜw ,ɔiǫɒm ʞɔɒld ƨi nwob ɘbiƨqu ʞniʜƚ uoy ʇI

𝖀𝖓𝖎𝖈𝖔𝖉𝖊 𝖈𝖆𝖓 𝓫𝓮 𝓪𝓫𝓾𝓼𝓮𝓭 𝕚𝕟 𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕪 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨

haha, second line doesn't work on my android phone!

works on chrome + ubuntu though, apparently

I think you've just revealed the typeface for my blog - I needed something quirky!

> But does the effectiveness of this hold up over time or will your brain get accustomed to the font after a while

I would posit that this might be true if everything was in sans forgetica, but since only your notes should be in that font, then it will likely retain it's utility over time.

Is the goal that you type these notes in SF and hope the font trains you to remember? There was a scene in the video where someone just "switched" the notes to SF en-masse... seems like that'd be not so useful.

I write notes to re-explain the material in my own words and test my understanding. Then, once I'm sure I've got it right, I read the notes and use them as reference.

Writing in a normal font and then switching to Sans Forgetica to read/study the notes would be my use-case.

One trick I have learned when I started writing articles on a computer, and I am still using it, is that always change to an unfamiliar font face when proofreading.

I will try to use this font for proofreading and see how it compares to my current favorite, Luminari.

I bombed exams as a freshman because my notes were too hard to read. Learning to write legibly greatly improved my test results.

It doesn't help you read but it does help you remember, so if you get better at reading it doesn't mean you'll forget easily ... Or at least that's what I think they claim.

exactly. after about 10 seconds, I had no difficulty reading it at all, just as if it was a regular font. I'm extremely skeptical of this

That may not matter if it's based on how many neurons are firing to read it as though a regular font.

If it needs more CPU usage maybe the reinforcement is stronger.

I'd love to see some studies on the effect to give something a little more concrete than a pretty graph.

My favorite "desirable difficulty" from cog psych is to practice recall. I recall a study with 3 groups of students:

1. read essay 4 times

2. read and take notes, study notes

3. read once, then have to write out (a few times) what can be recalled on a blank piece of paper

The groups were from most to least confident in their learning but the actual success on a test for concepts (which requires recall) was opposite.

So, better than using a weird font to push encoding of memory is to plan for and then do recall practice. Like tell other people about what you learned or test yourself on it.

You get good at whatever you practice. If you reread something over and over, you don't get better at recalling the ideas, but you do get better at reading the thing. I bet the first group above would do better than the others at giving a live reading of the essay.

Your method (3) is a great way to study, and it's very similar to the "Feynman Technique": https://mattyford.com/blog/2014/1/23/the-feynman-technique-m...

The Feynman Technique is basically alternating between writing a description of a concept on paper from memory, and looking up whatever you couldn't remember.

It's not my method, I was recalling something I learned elsewhere. I've told lots of people about it, so I recall the points that mattered for telling people. I haven't practiced recalling the study authors and name of the study, so I can't recall that stuff.

I think I learned about it in "Learning how to learn" video course. One principle: don't reread, recall.

There was excitement when the first study showed hard-to-read fonts improved test performance in 2007[1]. Since then, there have been enough attempted replications for a 2015 review to conclude that there's no effect[2].

[1] Overcoming intuition: Metacognitive difficulty activates analytic reasoning: http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2007-16657-003

[2] Disfluent fonts don’t help people solve math problems: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-13746-007

It's too late for me to edit this comment, but I was wrong to dismiss Sans Forgetica based on the review. I checked the paper and it notes:

> Although the more general prevalence of “desirable difficulties” (Bjork, 1994) is beyond the scope of this article, several research groups have found that disfluent fonts improve performance on memory tasks (Cotton et al, 2014, Diemand-Yauman, Oppenheimer, & Vaughan, 2011; French et al., 2013; Lee, 2013; Sungkhasettee, Friedman, & Castel, 2011; Weltman & Eakin, 2014). Though some have also failed to replicate these effects (Eitel, Kühl, Scheiter, & Gerjets, 2014; Yue, Castel, & Bjork, 2013), the balance of evidence suggests that disfluent fonts may aid memory but not reasoning—presumably because reading words more slowly benefits memory, but not reasoning.

Credit to kradroy for noting the discrepancy and prompting me to check. I regret the error :(

No harm, no foul. Glad I could help.

I was doing research in this area in 2005-2006. Mine was focused on recall of English vocabulary by ESL learners. I chose to explore spacing intervals (a hot topic then). The font disfluency aspect isn't something I had heard of until today. I did a cursory search and found the first mentions of it between 2007 and 2011.

I wish I had proposed using Comic Sans over Arial to improve recall. It would have made my experiments (and analysis turnaround) quicker than a semester. :)

Compelling, but the Sans Forgetica font's effect is focused on recall/remembering. From the two abstracts you linked (I'm not paying for the papers) it appears the experiments were testing the effect of disfluent fonts on reasoning. These are different cognitive activities, so it doesn't really disconfirm the font's creators' claims.

I just checked the review with Sci-Hub, and you are correct. I was much too hasty. The memory effect is still plausible, they write:

> "Although the more general prevalence of “desirable difficulties” (Bjork, 1994) is beyond the scope of this article, several research groups have found that disfluent fonts improve performance on memory tasks (Cotton et al, 2014, Diemand-Yauman, Oppenheimer, & Vaughan, 2011; French et al., 2013; Lee, 2013; Sungkhasettee, Friedman, & Castel, 2011; Weltman & Eakin, 2014). Though some have also failed to replicate these effects (Eitel, Kühl, Scheiter, & Gerjets, 2014; Yue, Castel, & Bjork, 2013), the balance of evidence suggests that disfluent fonts may aid memory but not reasoning—presumably because reading words more slowly benefits memory, but not reasoning." (my emphasis)

What I'm puzzled by is their need for creating a new font and marketing it. All prior studies finding this improved recall effect used already available fonts in the experiments. I can't find any license for Sans Forgetica, so I assume it is free to use. Maybe exposure/fame for the lab?

I reached out to them directly (RMIT) about the license and they responded that is not available for commercial use.

“Sans Forgetica is designed for non-commercial use only. It is bound by a creative commons, non-commercial, attributed (CCBYNC) license.”

I tweeted about this yesterday, from the article:

> "Students remembered 57 per cent ... written in Sans Forgetica, compared to 50 per cent .... in Ariel"

7% delta retention isn't so much, is it?

Hey, it's based on "the principles of cognitive psychology", a field that's renown for its accuracy and reproducibility.

Yeah, they should rename it "Sans Scientifica".

I found the name "Sans Forgetica" well-chosen though. I'll remember that name for quite some time...

How about litteræ pinguis serpentis?

Been a long time since my Latin days and there's so much nominative/genitive overlap in those words I can't figure it out. "Writings of a fat snake" or something, I don't know. Help? :-)

It's "snake oil font". littera is a letter, and I hope that the plural form means "font" or "script". But litteræ definitely means "science" as well, so that's OK.

Tufts University has Lewis & Short online: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?redirect=tru...

I would have used oleum instead of pinguis, which is more like "grease", I believe:


Good question. Is oleum used for liquid fat, no matter the source, or is it confined to plant-based oils? pinguis has definite animalistic qualities. You'd think it was oleum nucis indicæ [1], not pinguis nucis indicæ, except when used in a metaphorical manner.

Paging Reginald Foster, Father Reginald please!

[1] nux indica is the coconut

Pinguis isn't even a noun, is it? I think it's an adjective.

Pinguis can be a name alright besides an adjective, but it is more "fat":


I provided the link to google books to the Liber fundamentorum pharmacologia only to show that oleum serpentis was actually an ancient remedy, of course the Latin of a book translated from medieval Persian might be not exactly Cicero, still it should be much better than any translation I can do.

But most probably oleum was a synonym of olive or however vegetable oil in ancient Rome, and it is entirely possible that the actual Persian medicine was the extract of some plant and only called serpentis.

On the other hand, besides the name, we don't actually know if snake oil is actually made of snake oil or snake fat or something else.

The link only shows pinguis as an adjective or adverb. I don't see any reference to it being a noun on that page.

>Subst.: pingue , is, n., fat, grease, Plin. 11, 37, 85, § 212; Verg. G. 3, 124: “taurorum, leonum ac pantherarum pinguia,” Plin. 28, 9, 38, § 144: “comedite pinguia,” Vulg. 2 Esd. 8, 10.—

"Comedite pinguia" may be not "classic" latin, still it is known enough:


Pinguis definitely has solid fat connotations for me.

I honestly will take 7% less retention to not have to look at this font any longer than I have to...

You also have to factor in reading speed. If you can remember 7% more but end up reading more than 14% slower, you are better off reading more (or rereading) with the lower 50% retention rate.

That's not entirely valid. There is SOME number where it may not be beneficial because another learning technique would be more efficient, but having to read slower isn't a problem of itself if there goal is simply "get better at retaining this information".

Also, there's a certain point where the delta is relevant enough to justify the extra effort invested (things involving safety/security for example).

I rarely re-read things, at least immediately. If it's something interesting (e.g. a link from HN), I'll bookmark it and hopefully come back to it later, but I frequently never get back to it. Something that forces me to stop skimming & forgetting would be helpful.

Doesn't "get better at retaining this information" have an inherent assumption of "in a certain amount of time"? If not, you could always just keep rereading the text until you memorize it.

Yes, but that's included in my point. Maybe the slow-reading with this font is less overall time than the number of rereads required in order to hit the same retention levels. It's also possible that reading something slower allows for greater mental association or memory building than just speed reading something 10 times.

There's a bunch of reasons why this could be either better or worse, depending on a myriad of different factors. I think it's a cool tool to have in your kit.

What is "Ariel"? Mermaid language?

Depends on size of population.

I can't find it at the moment, but the last time I looked, attempted replications of an early "illegibility improves recall" study failed. (IIRC, that didn't use a custom font, but rather some de-contrasting/visual-noise applied.)

I see no cited papers here, just the claim, in the video, that "over 100 students" were used in testing to pick this font from several candidates.

I'm doubtful of any long-term value here. Even if "desirable difficulty" mechanism is real, I'd expect different readers to need wildly different levels of interference, and for their perceptions to adapt quickly to consistent letterforms. (So, to really get the benefit, you'd have an adjustable and dynamic level of perceptual-interference.)

Who can possibly forget the font that Mike Koss's "The Terminal" Apple ][ terminal emulator used to get 32 lines of 70 characters each in HIRES graphics mode in 1981? It's the most difficult to read font I've ever used regularly! (Don't try using it on a color TV, though.)


>Tiny (3x5) Font

>Created for the Apple II program The Terminal. Copyright (c) 1981 Michael C. Koss

>In 1981 I wrote a terminal emulator for the Apple II. At the time, the Apple II could only display upper case characters. I used the hi-res display (280 x 192 pixels!) to display my own character set. In order to come close to showing an 80-column display, I created a truly tiny font, displaying the full ASCII character set (upper and lower case).

>I created a font within a 3x5 pixel dimension, allowing the display of 32 lines of 70 characters each. The font definitely takes some training and getting used to (especially recognition of characters that use descenders); but I found it to be quite readable after a while.

Interesting. Too bad the link to download the font is not working.

The type of illegibility matters, apparently. Decontrasting and visual noise stress a different part of the visual pathway to hard-to-read letter shapes. I'm trying to find the paper which describes this, but it's been at least a year since I saw it.

http://www.matthewfrench.net/pubs/fontspreprint.pdf reproduces the original effect. What's interesting here is that the effect is measured as significantly more pronounced in dyslexic students.

Wow, they have their own TLD! https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/rmit.html

Interesting that the university's website is not on that TLD but rather https://rmit.edu.au

The unusual TLD makes it more memorable.

Anyone can apply for their own gTLD. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_top-level_domain

Interestingly, one of the major promoters of gTLDs is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne_IT a neighbor of RMIT

"The initial price to apply for a new gTLD was $185,000"

Using that student tuition fee wisely. (ICANN's website confirms this is still the initial cost + deposit, and more fees can pile on)

Yeah, so what's the usecase for usage of a TLD if most of your presence is on a more well-known TLD like .edu.XX or .com?

It makes a lot of sense to me. You want your primary public facing site with a TLD that people know about. .edu immediately confers legitimacy by assuring the visitor that its a legitimate educational institution (I’m assuming .edu.au is the Australian equivalent).

But when it comes to sites and services students and professors would want to use, go for the TLD, (e.g.s alumni.rmit, bursar.rmit, athletics.rmit). It’s a much more pleasing (I don’t know whether rmit actually does that or not).

As a grad from a sandstone uni, I feel disappointed. ;)

While some folks here are joking about mirroring text, there's a sane point behind that.

There's an ancient Greeks' way to read text more effectively called Boustrophedon. The idea is that the text lines are interleaved with x-axis mirrored lines, so your eyes move not by Z-shape trajectory, but like meander. There're demo texts to learn to use it [1].

As for my experience, I can't say I'd been understanding or remembering more or less while reading boustro, especially when I'd begun to get used to it.

[1] https://boustro.com/app/

This is actively being discussed in the memory and mnemonics community along side spaced repetition.

I'd like to see more research here and see where it can be used and how it can be used.

I've been working on an integrated offline browser for documents and annotation named Polar:


which is mostly designed around annotation and spaced repetition.

You can store all your documents and web content in one place and since you're obviously trying to read and retain all that information it might be interesting to enable this as a one-off feature to see if it helps.

Another idea could be to just have them for the flashcards since this is the key information you're trying to retain.

That font seems quite legible actually. The letters are all quite distinct and apart from the gaps and backward-slant, follow proper typographical conventions.

I would have made the letters monospaced at least (no kerning either), and would have used base letter shapes that look much more alike (e.g., the bowls of the d, a, q, and c should be the same, because slight differences in them help you identify letters more readily, which is precisely what proper fonts do).

Also, does that university actually own their own top-level domain? Those don't come cheap do they?

Re: top-level domain, there's a good number of universities on the list. https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db

It's about $200k.

I think it's pretty cool! Would definitely matter to me from a "what school should I go to" standpoint.

Really? I would prefer to go to a school that spend money on useful stuff.

Honestly, I can't tell if you're being serious or sarcastic... Both cases sound reasonable to a degree.

Not being sarcastic, learning the extra stuff related to managing a TLD sounds interesting to me, and it sounds like this program has someone on it that likes doing cool stuff like that.

I thought it was something to do with forging essays or something similar as I kept reading it as Forge-tica.

I always thought the use of study notes was just in writing them to stimulate memory, not actually reading them (for me at least).

Me too. Taking write-only notes was one of my best study weapons in college.

Though, just think of your memory retention if you take notes by hand-drawing this font. Sure, it's time consuming, but you're never going to forget those two sentences that you got through.

I had the same problem with the name, although in my case I attributed it to associating it with FontForge.

> Sans Forgetica is more difficult to read than most typefaces – and that’s by design. The 'desirable difficulty' you experience when reading information formatted in Sans Forgetica prompts your brain to engage in deeper processing

Based on this logic - harder the process better the processing - its obviously a mistake that schools are increasingly using technology to teach, like visualizing geometric shapes on screen in 3D instead of painstakingly drawing on the board and letting students see it in their heads.

And based on this logic, I'm asking everyone to please downvote my comment to lower its contrast, so it's harder to read and unforgettable!

Edit: NOOOO!!! I said DOWNVOTE! ;(

The basic idea has to do with a concept called processing fluency. Studies have shown that the harder your brain has to work to process the information, the more likely you are to absorb it -- at least to a point.

One recent study that manipulated processing fluency using a hard-to-read font is "Fluency and the detection of misleading questions: Low processing fluency attenuates the Moses illusion," Social Cognition, 2008.

The study found that people who read information in a hard-to-read font were better at spotting a certain category of error than people who read the same information in an easy-to-read font.

(Incidentally, this study is one that I adapted for my book "Experiments for Newlyweds: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform With Your Spouse," due out in April. So if you know any couples who'd like to try it out together, it makes a great wedding gift!)

When I was a student, I used multilinguality for a similar purpose.

When I was studying from notes or a book in Spanish (my native language), I would review in English. Actually, my review consisted in presenting the contents to an invisible audience in English (yes, I've never been able to study in libraries or other places where you need to remain silent, most of my time studying consists in standing and talking...)

Conversely, when I studied from material in English, I would review it in Spanish, also by presenting to an invisible audience.

I always found this to be very effective (even before learning about the cognitive science concept you point out). Of course, it's just anecdotal evidence with sample size of 1. But it's a fun way to study anyway, it also lets you practice a foreign language, and you're more likely to not get bored and set "autopilot" on (maybe this was also a big factor why it worked for me...)


Please don't do this here.

Just curious, why else would it be specifically for newlyweds? What's the big deal?


This comment breaks the site guidelines. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow them when posting here.

Anyone know what the licence is for the font? It is free to download, but doesn't come with anything explaining usage and distribution restrictions.

I reached out to them directly (RMIT) about the license and they responded that is not available for commercial use.

“Sans Forgetica is designed for non-commercial use only. It is bound by a creative commons, non-commercial, attributed (CCBYNC) license.”


I wondered the same thing. No contact info on the Chrome Store page either — just a place to send feedback.

In my experience, a good strategy is to read your notes aloud, preferably while walking.

This forces you to really notice what is written, helps sustain your attention (when you're walking and talking, there's not much cognitive slack for drifting off), will improve your memory (we tend to remember things better when we have spent a larger effort on them), and leads pretty naturally to reason aloud about what you have just read.

Apparently, there used to be perambulatory monks that would follow a similar strategy, reading or reciting sacred texts while pacing around the courtyards of their monastery.

Interesting. I remember in high school history we'd often get the exam essay question to prepare. As a boarder, I used to break into one of the school classrooms, re-arrange all the furniture so the chairs formed a giant circle, and I'd pace around it memorising what I'd prepared.

I'm now wondering if the added chair-balance while walking enhanced the approach you're describing.

Hm made an Ad with this font and your future customers will remember. Have to hurry up to create a brand ;D

Reminds me of Steve Yegge:


Fortunately I’d spent years watching Jeff in action before my turn came, and I had prepared in an unusual way. My presentation -- which, roughly speaking was about the core skills a generalist engineer ought to know -- was a resounding success. He loved it. Afterwards everyone was patting me on the back and congratulating me like I’d just completed a game-winning hail-mary pass or something. One VP told me privately: “Presentations with Jeff never go that well.”


To prepare a presentation for Jeff, first make damn sure you know everything there is to know about the subject. Then write a prose narrative explaining the problem and solution(s). Write it exactly the way you would write it for a leading professor or industry expert on the subject.

That is: assume he already knows everything about it. Assume he knows more than you do about it. Even if you have ground-breakingly original ideas in your material, just pretend it’s old hat for him. Write your prose in the succinct, direct, no-explanations way that you would write for a world-leading expert on the material.

You’re almost done. The last step before you’re ready to present to him is this: Delete every third paragraph.

Right when I saw the example text, I was immediately reminded of typographical rivers[0]. If you have a visual memory, I'm guessing rivers in paragraphs may also help you remember what you read, since the negative space creates branch-like structures in the paragraph, which adds an extra visual memory cue. After looking at a few examples of this font, it's clear that this font was designed to do that. You can see similar continuous structures in the text itself. Pretty neat. Looks like they also borrowed ideas from Daniel Kahneman, as well[1]. In his book, I believe one of the examples does a test on Princeton students to see how many riddles they can solve, and they did better when the font was harder to read.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_(typography)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

Regardless if it works, its a pretty neat font. I didnt see a license though, does anyone know what is allowed?

I would LOVE a monospaced version of this. If any type designers are out there, please make this happen.

Yeah, it's surprisingly attractive and easy to read.

I'm inclined to think someone behind this was having a lot of fun, and it looks nice.

If it turns out not to be a joke/hoax/psychology/social experiment, I will be sure to remember - I made a note to check back later, using this special font that aids memory.

I can think of a practical use case for Forgetica Light, a font with the opposite design of Sans Forgetica:

Instead of simply deleting messages after a short time, Snapchat should render them in Forgetica Light, so you can't even remember them!

Resume builder.

It's free. It's easy to install. There's no hidden catch like giving up your privacy. Skepticism aside, I don't see the harm in trying it.

What would be cool is if they conducted a larger study via the Chrome plugin.

It looks like a pretty artistic stencil font, which is to say I don't believe it's all that much harder to read nor helps memory --- certainly I've seen a lot of text in stencil font in various places, but I don't really remember what that text was now.

Looking at paragraphs of text in it, I feel like it actually encourages me to read faster because of the missing pieces; maybe it is harder to read but that triggers "skim mode" so I pay less attention to each word.

I tried and feel this font is crazy. I can hardly focus on the content because my brain struggles in recognizing the letters. It does exactly the opposite goal as it claims.

I can't actually see the font. The page has the font samples at #ccccdd with a white background.

If someone doesn't seem to understand something as simple as contrast, why should I think they understand memory?

Webaim has a tool to help with contrasts. Anything lighter than #595959 on a white background can be hard to see.


I like Sans Forgetica. The idea that difficult reading and writing can help you remember something is very fresh and real to me because 𐑲 𐑿𐑟 ·𐑖𐑱𐑝𐑾𐑯 𐑓𐑹 𐑨𐑤 𐑥𐑲 𐑯𐑴𐑑𐑟 𐑯 𐑑𐑨𐑕𐑒 𐑤𐑦𐑕𐑑𐑟 𐑑 𐑣𐑧𐑤𐑐 𐑥𐑰 𐑒𐑺𐑮𐑓𐑳𐑤𐑰 𐑕𐑧𐑤𐑧𐑒𐑑 𐑢𐑳𐑑 𐑑 𐑢𐑮𐑲𐑑 𐑯 𐑮𐑰𐑥𐑧𐑥𐑚𐑳𐑮.

In both cases, I notice it's easier to memorize things in this fashion. Although I suppose with the ·𐑖𐑱𐑝𐑾𐑯 that effect will wear off if I obtain more reading & writing proficiency.

What's that shorthand?

It's Shavian (·𐑖𐑱𐑝𐑾𐑯) which was linked here a little while ago. It's a phonetic english alphabet (so it's not shorthand, but often is shorter) with pretty good font support and a unicode allocation.

The Shavian Reddit has links to a Linux keymap and more details if you'd like it. I used Memrise's Shavian course to memorize it in about a week, and I've been reading and writing ever since.

It's delightful for task and note taking right now because the extra effort of writing to it helps me remember things.

What do you think of Quikscript?

Uh, I like it. I'm considering writing a unicode extension proposal for it. I actually do all my task journaling in Shavian and I find it a lot more tedious to write than Quickscript. Quickscript also has more useful loan-consonants (and we could extend the spec easily to grab a few more, since sounds like ñ are much more common in English than in Shaw's day).

So I like it, but I use Shavian mostly because it's well supported. I'm in the camp that says physical writing is dead, so I wnat to get quick/read into Unicode formally.

This is like the opposite of a dyslexia friendly font.

Maybe we should treat the root cause and not the symptom? If people don't remember stuff because they don't need it then maybe the tests should not depend on remembering useless stuff?

At my job for some reason I never need to force myself to remember stuff; it comes naturally as I look up the same thing over and over again because I use it frequently.

It's having the opposite effect on me. I usually remember images outright(including the shape the letters took, word positions, some smudged portion of the page, other defects, etc.) and read it out mentally in real-time as I need it. This font is completely messing with my mnemonic. I have trouble visualizing anything I write in it.

If they are so confident on the efficacy of their font, why don't they use the font for all the text on their website?

Compared to Donald Knuth's font [1], Sans Forgetica is for wussies.

[1] Donald E. Knuth, N-Ciphered Texts: https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?articl...

It would've been nice to have the whole page to be in the Sans Forgetica font to see it in action.

I tried copy-pasting the whole website into the "Type something you want to remember" box near the bottom. Unfortunately, it's a <div contenteditable> and the original font styling got copied inside too. :|

they clearly don't want you to remember their site. If they did they'd be using their font

They have a chrome extension that does this.

Man, my learning process had very little to do with reading the notes that I wrote down. I can maybe remember one or two tests where I actually read over my notes, but most of the time it was just the original writing down that seemed to help with learning.

Maybe if the textbook was printed in this font...

So you'll learn it after a while and it won't serve it's purpose anymore? Each letter should slightly animate like a little slug or render randomly to get benefits of forcing brain to read-with-focus or whatever that is.

I wrote a PostScript font like that once. You just have to use the "setcharwidth" operator instead of the "setcachedevice" operator in your font's BuildChar or BuildGlyph procedure, so your glyphs don't end up getting cached.

Here's an even more dynamic (albeit less efficient) PostScript font I made for NeWS that forks off a light weight process to draw each character in the background.

It actually creates a separate canvas (window) for every character with a lightweight input event manager process listening for mouse events that lets you slide each character around the screen by dragging with the middle mouse button.

Some of the characters are "CycleItem" widgets you can click on with the left button to cycle between different glyphs, and even "SliderItem" sliders and "TextItem" input fields!

Because why should't you be able to create fully interactive editable user interfaces just by drawing text?


Ahem, my knowledge of cognitive psychology (and psychology in general) are certainly not relevant but I pretend to be a decent reader... Sorry, your font is terrible to read. I spent more time in deciphering it than in understand the written concept.

BTW personally I always found FAR MORE effective to take notes with pen and paper and after transfer them on personal desktop, in org_mode in my case so without any fancy distracting typography. The same for reading: I learn far more reading a printed docs than from an on-screen one. I test many times and techniques from high school to university to work training/conference etc. ALL "PC made from the start" was a fail, including photos and voice recording. Of course I'm not a statistical valid sample but I pretend to be not much different than any other human around.

I can't tell if you are joking or not. The point of the font is being terrible to read. There's an explanation on the page. Making your brain work harder to get the info makes it more likely to remember the info.

No it's not a joke, claiming that being harder to read help understanding things remind me the ancient Victorian era, the Cilicium idea, the "all work and no play" song etc. I do not consider it a scientific truth but only another reactionary claim that can be as scientific as Franklin idea of forcibly wake up people with a cannon shoot in any road.

http://www.matthewfrench.net/pubs/fontspreprint.pdf (to pick one example)

You may not know it, but there are studies backing this up. Whether you consider it a scientific truth or not is barely relevant. What is interesting to know is that not all disfluencies are created equal: blurring text and adding visual noise don't help, apparently because they don't engage the right part of the visual pathway.

Thanks for the link, yes I do not know these kind of studies before, and I skim read it just now, however I also see claim of non reproducibility and different results from other studies in this page.

Personally I notice that force me to read difficult fonts does not help at all my understatement or my memory. In the end my idea, without statistical proof of course, is that such contrasting observation are simply noise. Perhaps due to a sample size not big enough, perhaps due to tested individual itself but still noise.

Also IMVHO such studies exist for a reason: teacher's mean quality is getting lower and lower due to various schools reforms and since admit errors it's not a thing these days someone try a sort of "montecarlo test" in the desperate search of a solution to stop the bleeding. Other find such tentative nice for their business because new stuff means new sales for someone.

"makes it more likely to remember the info" is a dubious claim, not an established fact.

Surely you would get used to it and then it would stop being difficult to read.

If “more difficult to read” indeed implies “better retention”, we need a browser extension that shows a captcha on every page load that uses text phrases supplied by the user.

I fear that’s a fairly fat if, though.

I realize this is a corner case, but I wonder how dyslexics will perform using a font that looks even less like a letterform — when it is already a struggle to combine several into a word.


I was worried about exactly this when I was thinking about using it for company training materials. Apparently the benefit for dyslexics (if you believe this study) is even greater than for non-dyslexics.

I think this approach is doomed to fail because Learning is already hard. Increasing the cognitive load at the very beginning of the learning process seems like a non-starter to me.

WRITING BY HAND. A font to help you remember your study notes.

An excellent point. I found that handwriting notes after I had typed them dramatically improved recall. I did this when studying for the CA Bar exam, which involves memorizing lots of rules. After taking typed notes during the day, I would rewrite the notes by hand.

For me, I think part of the reason that I remember handwritten things better is that the formatting has to be done correctly the first time. For example, if I was writing down the three elements of a statute, one of which had two sub-elements, then I had to know very clearly how the statute was structured before committing pen to paper. When taking notes on a computer, it's easy to just pound out text and then go back later and put in the right formatting. For me, being forced to properly format the first time around seems to greatly increase recall.

The mediating factor for these studies is going to be reading time. Similarly I would presume reading a mathematics text out of order will also boost recall on a test.

Err, the 'n' resembles 'η' (the greek letter eta). The 'W' looks like 'Λ' (a capital alpha with quotes). Maybe there are other confusing similarities. I wouldn't use that font for maths, if it means I end up remembering an incorrect formula.

I don't really believe in it before experimenting, but I'll give it a try with Anki spaced repetion software. Maybe I'll improve remembering.

Apparently I can memorize much better images than words, so I found helps me a lot replacing words or parts of words with icons. That’s my study “font”.

How do I use this in Anki? Could be a really great help!

Contender for a considerably better dyslexia font.

It takes on the order of a few minutes for your brain to learn to read that font fluently. It all seems rather silly.

Does RMIT have a good reputation?

To throw a match onto the powder keg:

Does the reputation of the university have any bearing on the quality of the research? Sounds like the "appeal to authority" logical fallacy to me.

> Does RMIT have a good reputation?

It's definitely one of the better universities in Australia, and has a good design reputation.

So, yeah.

Does someone have this as a LaTeX font package?

Modern LaTeX can use TTF and OTF natively.

I tried and feel this is crazy. I cannot focus on the content because my brain struggles in recognizing the letters.

If being hard to read makes something easier to remember, my Japanese would be a lot better by now.

Is anyone familiar with OpenDyslexic? It does the same job but for normal people, I think.

Tried the chrome extension - doesn't seem to be working. Can you guys look into this?

Comic Sans was ahead of its time

It's cool, but has this been tested under replicable scientific conditions?

It reminds me of the lettering on the signs in Lucis in Final Fantasy XV.

Is Cyrillic support planned?

A side note: I sometimes transliterate latin text to cyrillic.

This doesn't exactly help with remembering things, but by now I have a somewhat better understanding of the cyrillic alphabet, even without being able to speak any of the languages using it, and only fleeting experience with any slavic one.

It definitely takes away the alienness of it.

It doesn't seem that hard to do it yourself :-)

engineered information loss to streghten your cranial muscle, fun

Not to be the usual skeptic, but "scientifically designed" doesn't really-really mean (at least to me) "designed by scientists" (which this thingy is).

I mean, nice and all, but what about some actual tests/reports of it actually being noticeably better at remembering what you have read?

The concept is very nice and interesting, but besides it:

>The science of Sans Forgetica

>Sans Forgetica is more difficult to read than most typefaces – and that’s by design. The 'desirable difficulty' you experience when reading information formatted in Sans Forgetica prompts your brain to engage in deeper processing.

I would like to have something more than a video by the scientists that designed it.

If it wasn't a UNI backed thing, I would have thought that the video was a sales pitch for Kickstarter or similar.

I had some expectations for the .pdf inside the downloadable .zip but basically all there is in it is:

>Learn more about the science behind Sans Forgetica at sansforgetica.rmit

This reminds a lot of the hype around traffic signs and the font "Clearview" being better for driving. The data collected was the legibility of old signs vs new signs but never accounted for the control of replacing the worn/faded signs with new signs using the old font, or other types of signs.

Turns out it was simply replacement of old signs, and that Clearview actually had reduced legibility in negative-contrast (black on white, instead of white on green).

I'd bet that research would show something that the benefits of this come with cons.

I tried to find a paper or something on it, nothing (don't actually know how to search for papers, no scientist).

I checked the credits on https://mumbrella.com.au/naked-creates-font-for-rmit-which-i... where i see no psychology anything but maybe Behavioural Business Lab. Granted, this was no list of the scientists working on it, but there sure seems to be a lot of marketing and brand management involved.

I can't be sure on this one, but it seems adding science to a claim is just a good marketing practice.

Are there science news sites that add paper references or something to fact check against, to their articles?

It seems plausible, studies have shown that students who handwrite notes retain more information than students that type notes. The reason for this is because handwriting is slower than typing, so your mind spends more time thinking about what you're writing, vs just being a stenographer that writes everything the professor says, giving no thought to whether it's important or not. I can't speak to the validity of Sans Forgetica, but on the surface it at least makes sense.


You are speculating without evidence. Handwriting may be more effective for memorization than typing because forming letters by hand is a more memorable act than typing, nothing to do with "choosing what's important to write". Since handwriting is so laborious, it leaves LESS time for thinking about what to write down, not more.

You can test this yourself by making a fair comparision:

* Copy entire documents by handwriting vs typing, with no regard to choosing "what's important", and test which strategy leads to better recall.

* Take notes from a lecture by handwriting vs typing, setting a goal of say 10% of the total material note-taken, choosing what's important to write down, and giving yourself as much time as needed to write or tye everything

* Similar comparisons, writing all vs writing selections, typing all vs typying selectionsl

"Since handwriting is so laborious, it leaves LESS time for thinking about what to write down, not more."

A bit in undergrad but quite a lot in grad school, I ended up stopping taking notes. I discovered I was better off engaging completely in class, and consulting the textbooks if necessary, than trying to multitask learning and taking notes. YMMV; I can easily believe there are people who had the exact opposite experience, that note taking radically improved their retention. I'm just saying that such experience is definitely not universal.

I was the same way for the most part, I'd skip taking notes unless a teacher was making a very important point that I knew I wouldn't remember or wouldn't be able to look up later. But most of the time if it was important the teacher wouldn't just say it once and never touch on it again!

Sure it seems plausible, but from "plausible" to "scientifically" there is IMHO a huge leap.

It may make sense, and personally I hope/wish that it actually works as intended, but that's far from being OK with the font to be tagged as it is.

Even the paper mentioned in the article you linked to that should be this one (the original link in the article is to SAGE journals and I cannot access it):


seems like proposing a theory that makes a lot of sense more than anything else.

> The reason for this is because handwriting is slower than typing, so your mind spends more time thinking about what you're writing

Yeah, but this is about a typeface that's intentionally harder to read, not write.

I agree with the idea that handwriting notes is more beneficial, to a degree. I prefer taking notes by hand, but once I reach a certain threshold (over 3 pages, usually) , I need to organize the notes digitally.

Right, I would want to see a study comparing people's ability to remember things written in this and another font before I believe any claims.

This sounds like the same sort of pseudoscience that gives rise to apps like Lumosity, et al.

There's a video on the page where they talk about a test they run on it and that it performed "better."

No idea how much better, or if the test was terrible. At least they're on the right track.

After reading your comment and learning the immature research backing this article, I wonder why this is trending at number one post.

This is cool. Shame most of my study notes are equation-heavy.

I don't get it.

Does it include a full set of unforgettable emojis?

I'd like to see a Chinese version of this...

Does Chinese even need this?

Uh. I have a feeling I'll just not read it properly and learn worse, if anything.

thats a nightmare if you are dyslexic/practic/etc

That study has also been done: apparently the effects are even better. http://www.matthewfrench.net/pubs/fontspreprint.pdf

Recalling the recent "how to smell BS papers" article, this doesn't pass the grandma test.

More specifically, you would imagine that if such a simple hack existed, we would be well aware of it in 500 years of printed press.

That can really change though just depending on how long we've bothered systematically studying $SUBJECT.

The example text just gives me eyestrain. If I wanted eyestrain, I'd just borrow someone else's glasses, or switch to a low res monitor.

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