I'm gonna cry.

According to a new study, illegible fonts may actually help reading comprehension. An article in Seed Magazine explains:

Reasearchers... asked 28 student volunteers to read about hypothetical alien species from a sheet printed in either 16-point Arial, 12-point Bodoni, or, yes, 12-point Comic Sans. The larger Arial font was much more legible than the other two versions, but in a quiz 15 minutes later, students reading the Bodoni or Comic Sans versions were significantly more accurate in recalling details about the aliens.

This contradicts an earlier study:

In 2009, librarian Eric Schnell wanted to know if the font of his library handouts made a difference, and uncovered a 2008 study which suggested that it did. Researchers Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz developed two versions of a handout designed to motivate students to exercise regularly. One was composed in basic Arial, while the other used the casual Brush font (like Comic Sans, a font meant to mimic handwriting). The students who read about exercise in Arial were significantly more enthusiastic about exercising than those who read in Brush. In a separate experiment, the researchers found similar results for a set of instructions on how to roll sushi. So perhaps those snobby typographers have a point: Setting type in a more readable font seems to lead to a better response.

More after the jump...

I think the research and writing of Edward Tuffte also contradicts this new study. While he primarily focuses on the visual presentation of data as opposed to specifics of design, I don't think it's a stretch to extrapolate his theories, especially when you read his criticisms of PowerPoint, among them:

Poor typography and chart layout, from presenters who are poor designers and who use poorly designed templates and default settings (in particular, difficulty in using scientific notation);

When it comes to design, I still believe that form should follow function. Information design—whether it's handouts, newspapers, websites or ads—should never interfere with the actual information. I guess the argument can be made that based on this study, Comic Sans in fact does exactly that. *Sigh*

I still hate you, Comic Sans. Jackass.