Sans Forgetica

  • 2019

  • Communication
    Branding and Identity

Commissioned By:

RMIT University

Designed In:


Sans Forgetica is a new typeface designed using principles of psychology to improve retention of written information. It is believed to be the world’s first typeface created using psychological and design theories in order to help memory retention, breaking enough conventions and engaging the reader into remembering the textual content.

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  • The design challenge was to fundamentally understand how people recall information during the reading process. The users targeted for this typeface are students studying for exams who seek to highlight and recall specific parts of the information they are reading. To fully address this we investigated how to bring together psychological theory with typographic design principles in order to trigger greater recollection. Our research specifically looked into the 'sweet spot' of information retention– the point at which there is an optimal level of difficulty to read (not too easy, not too difficult) that leads to the highest memory retention.

  • Emerging from this research is what is believed to be the first font designed according to the psychological principles of ‘desirable difficulty’ and ‘disfluency’ using design principles of balance, typicality and alignment. Unlike conventional fonts, Sans Forgetica has varying degrees of ‘distinctiveness’ that subvert many of the design principles normally associated with conventional typography. These varying degrees of distinctiveness cause readers to dwell longer on each word, giving the brain more time to engage in deeper cognitive processing, enhancing retention of that information. The typeface was lab-tested across hundreds of students with positive results, reinforcing the principles of Sans Forgetica.

  • The impact of Sans Forgetica has been very significant. The typeface was released online as a free download for people to use and test for themselves. This resulted in thousands of downloads of the font as well as its browser extension. Importantly the project had a massive effect of the public understanding of the reading process and memory. Sans Forgetica was covered across media worldwide, attracting over 200 million views through various channels. As well as attracting academic interest (fostering further research) it is being tested in the context of early childhood education, higher education and dementia research worldwide.

  • Sans Forgetica is a model of design collaboration. It is built on rigorous research and testing, showing an understanding of the user and the process by which they read and recall information. It advances the design profession and pushes the boundaries between design and our understanding of informational memory. This project questions the conventions of design, forming fruitful relationships with other professions (such as psychology) and proposing an ongoing stream of possible future design research. It also leads the way in the understanding of memory retention as it related to typography, a field very under-represented in current research. Sans Forgetica brings to the broader public a deeper understanding of the role that letterforms play in our consumption of information and our human capacity to recall it. The possible, and emerging, applications across industry, education and commerce of the principles underlying this project potentially effect every instance of visually depicting textual information. Sans Forgetica contributes to our collective understanding of memory through truly imaginative, unique and innovative ways whilst being supported by rigorous research and experience. It shows, by direct and applied example, the effect of design in addressing what is a growing societal concern.