Cut Costs by Saving Ink with Ecofont

By Josh Catone
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Dutch marketing company Spranq has figured out a clever way to save on ink: punch holes in the font. Their new Ecofont is a freely downloadable font that has a “Swiss-cheese design” intended to save ink by cutting down on the amount of printable area on each letter.

According to Spranq, they saw an average of 20% reduction in ink usage while using the Ecofont compared to that of the original source font, Bitstream Vera Sans. The font resembles the classic Verdana, riddled with donut holes. Spranq’s goal was to remove as much of the font as possible while still maintaining readability. After experimenting with several shapes, they landed on the hole approach, concluding that the basic shape of the letter needed to remain intact in order for the font to be usable.

The font is best used at size 9 or 10 and printed with a laser printer. Though it certainly isn’t crisp enough for public documents, Spranq thinks the Ecofont could be suitable for things like intra-office memos, employee handbooks, and other internal business documents, as well as for personal use.

The font is offered for free under an open source license that encourages contributions from outside developers. Already there are Arabic and Hebrew versions of the Ecofont under development that apply the same ink-saving principles.

Spranq says that the amount of ink saved when using the Ecofont will depend on the age and variety of the printer and the size of the font (the smaller the font, the smaller the percentage of ink savings — though smaller fonts also use less ink in general).

The Ecofont is a really neat idea that should save not only money, due to using less ink, but also help to save the environment by creating less waste (fewer discarded ink and toner cartridges). If you do a lot of printing, you should definitely considering putting the Ecofont into use as a method of saving money and creating less waste. We think Spranq has hit on something very cool and hope that it catches on.

Also be sure to check out our article 10 Tips for Being a Greener Web Designer for more environment saving tips.

We teamed up with SiteGround
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  • Josh

    Now that is a nice idea. I wonder if anyone has tested this font on an audience of people with cognitive disabilities. I’m hesitant that they may not be able to distinguish the letter types without the completely filled character, hence reducing the readability for this audience segment.

  • E.J. Semeijn

    I have read about this font several months ago a did some testing with it. Problem is that the font is really ugly and not that good to read when using a small font size. So you need to use a larger fonts which makes you’ll use more paper… There goes the “save money” and “create less waste”!

    Nice try, but I would say: reduce your printing.

  • eretz

    That’s interesting… Incidentally, I wonder how much one would save by printing in grey?

  • php_penguin

    I’d be happier if my clients didn’t print off all our emails, chat logs, etc.

  • Ed Everett

    Yes… “For printers without an economy setting”.

    Also, it’s “based on Verdana” I hope that means “inspired by”, not “we pirated the font and added circles”.

    While I’m at it – Verdana is a very poor choice to base a print typeface on. Verdana was designed to work on screen, it’s letter shapes are based around the pixel grid – it’s a powerhouse for text on screens but really not very good printed where the higher resolution allows typefaces to have much more subtlety.

    Seems like it’s designed (hacked together) by a marketing company rather than a type designer. Oh, yeah, it is.

  • Jan-Christoph Borchardt

    Sadly, the best article on the problem of ecofont is only available in german, so I will try to translate the essence for you:

    A light sans-serif font will save much more ink than a wide cheese(y) one. If it is high in contrast and condensed as well, it will save paper, too.

    Furthermore, characters with holes are likely to induce eye-cancer. A carefully picked font set in 70 % black would not only be better from the ecological, but also from the readability viewpoint.

    By the way, the supposed advantage of the holes will convert 1:1 to a loss if the type is inverted.
    Mathematically speaking, the extra vector information (four anchors per hole) will multiply the need for computing power = energy.

    I just hope that none of the beaurocrats in Brussels is going to believe this nonsense.

  • treehuggers anyone

  • dmvictoria

    Great idea for sure, anything to reduce costs and eliminate waste. But most of the heavy users of toner are under contract with either Cannon or Xerox and in most cases toner is included as part of their lease. This includes me, I would not compromise quality at this point in changing fonts unless some unforeseen industry “crunch” happens.

    I’ve also worked in the toner cartridge remanufacturing business. As far as the environmental impact of toner on the environment, there is none. Toner has been well researched and is one of the most inert substances on earth, it is already “green”.

    Don’t get me wrong I applaud the work of anyone who reduces waste in any form. But this is a bit of a stretch.

  • Anonymous

    That font sucks.

    Almost all printer devices has toner-saver mode. Any font in this mode looks much more better than Ecofont.

  • Anonymously


    I agree.

  • This is ridiculous, the font looks like something I would find on a pair of cowboy boots.

  • Furthermore, characters with holes are likely to induce eye-cancer.

    Care to point in the direction of studies done in this area?

  • I proudly count myself as a treehugger, as should anyone who breathes the oxygen trees produce. However, I don’t buy this as a viable solution. Jan-Christoph’s comment makes a set of very good points. And as others noted, printing in grey instead of black and in toner-save mode works better than using this donut font.

    (I think the eye-cancer remark wasn’t meant to be taken literally.)

  • jamus

    I think its a joke. Isn’t it?

  • F.Danials

    The best way the ink and paper problem can be solved, is to reduce the font or page size in the first place, prior to printing. FireFox adopt an excellent feature, where pages can be shrank to a certain percentage, resulting in less paper and ink being consumed.

    Basically, if you want to reduce you printing, simply do (if not all of the following)

    * Change the font size.
    * Shrink the page to a certain percentage.
    * Select only the pages you want to print (e.g. Pages 5 to 7).
    * Don’t print unless you really have to.
    * You the draft feature of your printer (if you have this), inorder to print the document using minimal ink.
    * Print only in Black ‘N’ White (At least your only using one ink cartridge instead of 4-5)

  • And I wonder how much ink would be saved by simply not printing… :-)


  • Interesting. We will have to see how well it works for marketing visually. For now you can simply use thin fonts and or print in lighter shades.

  • Dan

    How about toner made from non-petroleum sources, even renewable sources, instead of requiring changes in layout or typography? Such toners do exist, and there are companies (Canon) experimenting in real-world situations. This is comparable to paper being made from eucalyptus and other renewables, like sugarcane.