The federal government can make a decision that would save taxpayers millions of dollars, and it wouldn’t have to cut programs, furlough workers, or even reduce duplicative spending: All it has to do is adopt a new uniform typeface to be used in all government documents.
That’s right—saving $136 million is as easy as switching from Times New Roman to Garamond. The proposal was made by Suvir Mirchandani, a clever 14 year-old from Pittsburgh who realized that “ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume.” Suvir’s idea began as a science project that sought to reduce operating expenses within his Pennsylvania middle school.
By analyzing different typefaces, Suvir discovered that the font Garamond would take up far less space on a page than other fonts, thus saving ink and therefore money. He then considered the vast amount of material that the government prints—the federal budget is $1.8 billion for printing-related expenditures—and realized his ideas could save some serious cash.
After analyzing five different government documents, Suvir found that using Garamond reduced coverage (the space covered by ink per page) by about 29 percent when compared to the original font used on each document. Given that a Government Services Administration study estimated that ink costs constituted 26 percent of printing costs—or $467 million in 2014—Suvir determined that by implementing his recommendation, the federal government would save $136 million. Extrapolating this change across state and local governments would yield another $97 million in savings for the taxpayer.
Although Suvir’s study was limited by the information he could consider (the government did not supply relevant printing data despite his multiple requests), his preliminary evaluation reveals that there is an easy way for the government to cut down on costs while implementing a uniform standard across government documents. A first-pass look at the Government Printing Office guidelines reveals that there is no standard font designation for government document submission, as customers are only urged to submit PostScript Type 1 (the industry standard) style fonts. Indeed, Canada designated an official government typeface through its Federal Identity Program, noting that “a consistent typography is fundamental to corporate identity,” and Australia includes an official typeface as a requirement of its government branding.
It simply does not make sense to carry on with a lax font standard for government documents that uses more ink than necessary. Aesthetics aside, Suvir’s idea provides an easy solution to a government-wide issue that would save millions of taxpayer dollars. If the bureaucracy is unable or unwilling to consider the measure, it is further evidence of how byzantine our government has become.