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Ford Is Improving Tech, Boosting Safety, And...Bolding Fonts?

June 22, 2011

Overnight, Ford sent out a barrage of press releases about the company's latest accomplishments. And jammed amongst the stories of tech developments and safety improvements was some news that made our resident typographer a little queasy: Fords are getting bolder.

That's not metaphor: the automaker is adding weight to the text found throughout its interiors, in the hope that drivers will find it easier to read. On average, the company says that fonts on the center stack in new vehicles will be about 40% heavier than they are today. Here's an example, taken from the air-conditioning controls on the 2013 Ford Explorer:

Ford's bold fonts for the 2013 Explorer

Ford's bold fonts for the 2013 Explorer

It would be pretty easy to lampoon this kind of press release: after all, the puns about "added weight" and "going boldly where no one has gone before" kind of write themselves. But we should point out two things:

1) The people in Ford's media department have to do something with their time; and, more importantly

2) Americans are growing older and thus, their vision is getting worse. (Eyesight begins to deteriorate around age 40, and the process accelerates during a person's 60s.)

Item #2 is a fairly major point. For the first time ever, the number of Americans age 65 and older is now larger than the number of children five and under. In marketing terms: the Baby Boomers are still booming, and Ford wants to make them feel comfortable behind the wheel.

That unprecedented demographic shift will have many effects over the coming decades, and Ford's fiddling with fonts is just the tip of the iceberg. We should probably brace ourselves for bigger type, high-contrast options, and overlit interiors down the road -- at least until someone perfects voice controls.


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