While the HBR article is intriguing I have to say the idea of using crappy fonts makes me a little sad. But I can’t argue with science. And besides the issues of making people read slower and the disfluency causes a level of mental struggle required for learning, there are a few other reasons I can think of that they may have achieved these results.
The brain seeks out novelty. It likes new and different things. It likes to be surprised so the use of an unexpected or unusual font could certainly trigger some interest. Also the brain tends to remember incongruity over repetition so I’d be curious to see if selective usage of “crappy” fonts for key points or callouts might spark better retention of information.
OK, I have to go take some deep breaths and get some chamomile tea for some designer friends who are no doubt huddled in a corner rocking at the thought of using “crappy” fonts.