NYT: Font Size May Not Aid Learning, but Its Style Can, Researchers Find


In a fascinating article by Benedict Carey for the New York Times Health Section, university studies around memory, cognition, and fonts have uncovered some surprising results.   

Various psychological research projects at Duke, Harvard, UCLA, Williams, and psychology pubications have uncovered the effects that familiar references have on learning and recollection. Research shows that glancing at references such at answer sheets, cheat notes, and certain styles of memorization give readers and test-takers a higher sense of confidence, but do not aid in test performance or in the ability to remember the material. Building on this, research at Indiana University and Princeton reveals that larger font size does not help people remember what they read, but rather, has the opposite effect, due to the fact that the brain is “tricked” into overconfidence. The same effect of “tricked overconfidence” results from reading information in a familiar font, as opposed to reading information in a more difficult-to-read, unfamiliar font—the latter appears to encourage better recollection of what was read.

This article has interesting implications for designers, since designers’ work must typically consider the legibility of type. While legibility is a necessity in most design projects, this research suggests that, at least in some situations, font choice does not need to be as “obvious” or “safe” as many design clients may fear. The research appears to suggest that a little bit more font “risk” may in fact make a message more memorable. 


Full article on NYT




Products of Design: Change through Making

From the School of Visual Art’s Products of Design Program:

“Designers have the power
to transform the world.
Products of Design transforms
designers, educating head,
heart and hands to reinvent
systems, create new types
of value, and catalyze positive
change through the business
of making.” 

Teaching Kids Design Thinking, So They Can Solve The World’s Biggest Problems | Co.Design

An outstanding article on utilizing Design Thinking to develop tomorrow’s thinkers. Reposted here from Fast Company.


The next generation will need to be more and more comfortable with problems of dizzying complexity. And design thinking can teach them that.

You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it. — Albert Einstein


The test scores are out again. And once again, American kids aren’t doing so well.

You can choose any of the international standardized tests and on average, American children will always be stuck in the middle, compared with their peers in other countries. Leading the pack in test scores are the students in Scandinavian countries, China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, with American students always trailing behind. And every time a new batch of test scores are published, you can hear the tapping of keyboards as various authorities opine about the dire state of the American education system.

A Vision

We all recognize a need for massive change in American education, but is our ultimate goal to outrank other countries in assessment tests and to beat the Chinese in math scores? We need to look at the world around us and consider what global problems modern society will need our children to solve.

We need new minds equipped with new ways of thinking.

Our world desperately needs leadership in achieving sustainable social justice, not simply learning the answer to a test question. America needs massive change in our understanding of the learning experience, not simply in our exam results. Simply put, to change the world, we need a generation of new minds equipped with new ways of thinking. We need to drastically shift our conception of education and then completely transform how we facilitate learning.

Future generations will be called to solve some of the most challenging problems ever created and faced by man. Our children must master systems-thinking to envision multiple methods for addressing complex challenges like renewable energy, world hunger, climate change, and ultimately, the design of a better world. They must also possess the compassion to recognize the rising human population and create a world that is inclusive, rather than exclusive.




Design Camp

To find a new set of solutions for our education system, let’s begin by asking the generation that is most affected by the current state of education. Prototype Design Camp was created by Christian Long, a visionary educator, to introduce and infuse design thinking skills into the K-12 landscape.

Students learned collaboration rather than information consumption.

“Last February, in the middle of an historic winter storm across the US, 30 high school students from 14 different schools in Ohio trekked their ways through the snow and ice to participate in the first Prototype Design Camp. They came fully engaged in helping the world answer one of the most perplexing challenges facing them: How do I engage and navigate through this fast changing world?”—Christian Long

As described on the website, Prototype Design Camp was an “innovative three day design camp [that] brought together…students and professional mentors to collaborate in an intense design challenge to address real world problems.”

The students—from public schools, private schools, and a career-technical high school—worked in groups with other students that they had never met before. Mentors worked with the groups, allowing students to learn through behavior modeling and collaboration rather than information consumption.

The results were a creative array of news networks, school designs, and student movements, but the most compelling outcome was the student experience itself. Reflections at the end of the conference from students included tremendous gratitude, a deep interest in the design process, and most importantly, a motivation to thoroughly create change.





According to the mysterious and beautiful properties of Quantum Entanglement, if you take any two objects and entangle them, you create an inseparable relationship between them. If you were to separate two entangled electrons, even sequester them at opposite sides of the universe, measuring one electron will instantaneously affect the other.

The Prototype Design Camp experience left us with the conviction that together, we can entangle design and learning and thus invent a new literal, visual, and spatial language. This language will give us the lexicon to support a radically new map and experience for learning and teaching. As we stand at the threshold decade of the third millennium, generations of world-changing minds are at stake.

[Photo courtesy of Christian Long]


Trung Le


Trung Le

Trung Le is a principal education designer at Cannon Design. Over the past two years he has helped lead an interdisciplinary group of designers and educators from the U.S., U…. Read more




Visual Learning Disabilities means some Designs are challenging for some to See

Most people are aware of Dyslexia or Color Blindness but there are other, less well-known visual impairments. The Museum of Teaching and Learning (MOTAL) is proposing an exhibit that illustrates another group of visual impairments, which include Central Field Loss, Contrast Reduction, Peripheral Field Loss, and combined Peripheral & Central Field Loss.

The exhibit, proposed by MOTAL and Design Professor Claudine Jaenichen, will provide visitors with “tainted” glasses designed to simulate these visual impairments, and experience first-hand an altered comprehension.

Something for designers to think about.

Mobile Media parallels Ancient Art: It’s all about identity and networking

A Cambridge PhD student in the fields of archaeology/anthropology/ethnography overheard a conversation about networking, and responded with an anonymous letter, some key excerpts of which are below.

We may all intuit that our digital gadgets are merely new tools for age-old human behavior, but here are some specifics from the loupe of academia:

” …many archaeologists are now beginning to realise that the behaviour of people (I am referring to stuff that was going one about 20,000 years ago when mobile art, figurines and parietal—cave—art largely first appeared in Europe) had much to do with building and maintaining networks, not just with people but also with other elements of the world.”

” …some archaeologists are now discussing the role of possessing and interacting with mobile (e.g. animal) figurines as a means of creating and maintaining human identity.”

” …the way that people engage with objects and media (e.g. mobile phones) in the Western’ world today is not so different to 20,000 years ago.”

—Anonymous Cambridge PhD student in the fields of archaeology/anthropology/ethnography, in response to a discussion about networking between Alan Moore and a colleague. Full text at The Do Village.

Something for designers and marketers to keep in mind.