I used to think about the connections between psychedelic ephemera, rave culture, myspace and l33t, about how subculture (such as it is) always finds way to live in the ecosystem with public secrets. Visible to everyone, but only legible to them who should read it.
And then you read this about Comic Sans, and I wonder if the easiest to way to hide something in public is to make it way too easy to read.
Last week, science writer and editor Christian Jarrett blogged about a new study, published this month inCognition. The researchers, led by Connor Diemand-Yauman, asked 28 student volunteers to read about hypothetical alien species from a sheet printed in either 16-point Arial, 12-point Bodoni, or, yes, 12-point Comic Sans. The larger Arial font was much more legible than the other two versions, but in a quiz 15 minutes later, students reading the Bodoni or Comic Sans versions were significantly more accurate in recalling details about the aliens.
In a follow-up, in collaboration with an Ohio high school, the researchers made actual classroom handouts less legible, either by setting them in smaller, harder-to-read fonts (including Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva, and once again, Comic Sans), or by moving them around while duplicating them on a copy machine. Once again, out of a pool of 220 participating students, those who studied from the less-legible materials did better on tests than those with more-legible handouts.