Sans Forgetica

designer Dr. Stephen Banham pyschologists Dr Janneke Blijlevens and Dr. Jo Perryman

Winner | Victorian Premiers Design Award (Communication Design) 2019
Winner | Patrons Australian Design Award, Good Design Awards 2019
Winner | Communication Design, Good Design Awards 2019
Winner | Research Impact Award, RMIT University 2019

Sans Forgetica is believed to be the world’s first new typeface specifically designed to help students recall information. It was developed by combining psychological theory and design principles to improve retention of written information.

The font was developed using a learning principle called desirable difficulty, where an obstruction is added to the learning process that requires us to put in just enough effort, leading to better memory retention to promote deeper cognitive processing. Sans Forgetica has varying degrees of ‘distinctiveness’ built in that subvert many of the design principles normally associated with conventional typography. These degrees of distinctiveness cause readers to dwell longer on each word, giving the brain more time to engage in deeper cognitive processing, thus enhancing retention of that information.

About 400 Australian university students participated in a laboratory and an online experiment conducted by RMIT’s Behavioural Business Lab where fonts exhibiting a spectrum of obstructions were tested to determine which font led to the best memory retention. Basically Sans Forgetica broke just enough design principles without becoming too illegible.

As Dr Janneke Blijlevens, Senior Lecturer Marketing (Experimental Methods & Design Thinking), and founding member of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab remarked “Typical fonts are very familiar, so readers often glance over them and no memory trace is created. However, if a font is too different, the brain can’t process it and the information is not retained. Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention.”

Sans Forgetica. The Font to Remember (film). Produced by Naked Communications and RMIT University.
The Design of Sans Forgetica (film) Produced by Naked Communications and RMIT University.
The Science of Sans Forgetica (film) Produced by Naked Communications and RMIT University.

Dr. Stephen Banham and Dr. Janneke Blijlevens testing and refining Sans Forgetica (2018)