Last week, a teenager from Pittsburgh made headlines with a science fair project about fonts. The official font of the United States government is Times New Roman. 14-year old Suvir Mirchandani calculated that by switching the font to Garamond, the government would use 30% less ink. The estimated savings, $136 million a year.
This story made me smile for several reasons. First, I love science fairs. Students use newly-learned concepts to investigate and understand the world around them. They approach problems without preconceived notions of what’s possible. The enthusiasm the students have for their projects is infectious and enlightening.
Second, a teenager is interested in print! Young Mr. Mirchandani’s proposal wasn’t to stop printing everything, but print smarter. Even a person born in the digital age understands the importance of paper documents. We may use smart phones, tablets and laptops to communicate with each other, but we also use paper. And probably will for many years to come.
Lastly, the story has many companies looking at their own documents. For years, software vendors and printer manufacturers have encouraged customers to consider fonts, type size and page coverage. Working on the basic principles of printing and composition isn’t exciting or glamorous. Yet by focusing on the fundamentals, we can uncover changes that will improve efficiencies and create savings.
Take a fresh look at your documents. Consider every component, from composition to print to mail. Bring in people from outside your department to provide feedback. Hold a brain-storming session and look at the impact of each idea. Don’t be stopped by negative comments like “But that’s the way we’ve always done it,” or “That won’t work here.” Instead, encourage thinking that starts with, “What if we….”
By bringing in new ideas, even the most efficient operation can save money. The savings may not always be $136 million, but it’s worth the effort.