Not long ago, a colleague asked if serif fonts like Times still sell better than sans serif fonts like Arial.
Answer: I dunno. I hope you know, and won’t mind sharing.
When I studied typography in the dark ages, eye tracking studies favored serif fonts. But to infer greater marketing effectiveness from eye motion was a leap. More convincing were split-copy tests that direct marketers executed in print and mail, where sans serif fonts consistently outperformed in terms of cold, hard sales.
Two explanations were proffered. One was that serifs provide a horizontal guide for the the eye to follow. The other was, simply, that we became acclimated to serifs because we grew up seeing more of them. I have always leaned toward the “acclimated” explanation. “Horizontal guide” is plausible, but “acclimated” doesn’t seem to push Occam’s Razor quite so far.
The question is by no means moot. If “acclimated” indeed accounts for serif fonts’ better performance in days of yore, then it is entirely possible for it to change. Given the ubiquity of sans serif fonts on the web and smart phones, it may have already changed, or have begun changing.
So, I am on the lookout for empirical data. Click-throughs, time spent on pages, etc., etc., all are well and good, but what I really want is data about cold, hard sales. My Inner Nerd loves knowing, just to know. My Inner Marketer wants to steer clients in the right direction. How about it, readers? Any data?