If you’ve done any word processing you’ve probably used typefaces from Monotype – Arial, for example, or Times New Roman. Typefaces can make printed material more or less readable, and they have the same potential impact on vehicle displays, which are becoming increasingly important as cars get more connected. The easier it is to read a display, the less time a driver needs to take her or his eyes off the road.
To determine which typeface was best, or at least better for in-vehicle displays, Monotype linked up with the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and they did some research on “glance time.”
In the study, drivers interacted with a multi-line menu display designed to resemble an automotive human machine interface (HMI). Data, including eye tracking measurements from 82 participants, were collected across two driving simulation experiments. Participants ranged in age from 36-75 and were asked to respond to a series of address, restaurant identification and content search menus displayed using two different typeface designs. They compared a “humanist” style (Frutiger) against a “grotesque” (Eurostile).
Among the men in the first study, the humanist style typeface resulted in a 12.2 percent glance time improvement compared to the grotesque. In a second experiment, when modifications in contrast (decreasing screen brightness) were assessed, there was a 9.1 percent improvement from the humanist versus the grotesque – again, among men. Glance time between the two typeface designs was virtually equivalent among women in the first study. Women in the second study showed a 3.3 percent improvement on glance time with the humanist style over the grotesque typeface.
Why the gender difference? That’s for further study. For now, it helps to know that a typeface can make a difference. In fact, the researchers say, the difference in glance time represents approximately 50 feet in distance when traveling at U.S. highway speed. That could be huge.