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Small IT innovations -- even savvy font management! -- can cut costs

How’s this for IT innovations that make cost-cutting a breeze? Wisconsin Public Radio is reporting that the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has switched the default font on its email system from Arial to Century Gothic.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal as far as IT innovations go, does it? But the school’s director of computing, Diane Blohowiak, says it will save money on ink when students print emails. How much money? The new font uses 30% less ink than the previous one — which really adds up when you consider that the printer ink the school uses costs about $10,000 per gallon, she said (which sounds high, but I’m not in the ink-purchasing business — wow).

Who would have thought a minor change could save so much dough? I repeat: Who would have thought a minor change could save so much dough?

And there you go. I hope you can see on your screen that the second font is skinnier than the first, yet you can still read it, as I’m sure University of Wisconsin students can when they print out their emails — and as I’m sure millions of office workers could, if their IT departments were to make such a switch.

We’ve been running a series of stories on IT innovations on, and they carry some excellent advice — whether it’s transportation leader Amtrak’s approach to different types of transformation or oil giant Chevron Corp.’s “innovation zone” designed to get creative juices flowing. And of course, in this recession we have written a lot — a LOT — about cost-cutting strategies. In those stories, CIOs have made it clear that cost-cutting is always a balancing act and they try to make the tradeoffs as painless as possible.

The Great Font Switcheroo of 2010 serves as an excellent reminder that IT innovations can — and should — go beyond zeroing in on the highest cost centers. Sometimes, it’s as easy as slimming down in barely perceptible areas.

Have you made a small but effective switch like this in your IT organization? Please brag about your IT innovations below!

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After a quick look, I actually feel that the new font ismore difficult/less efficient to read and it is wider so it takes more paper to print on and I believe that, given the increased effort in reading it and the increased paper consumption, in a short while this particular switch to century gothic will be deemed an inefficient switch. The idea, however is great and I believe that there may be other fonts that could do the trick better or even using a "economy mode " that saves ink or a draft mode for each font that could do the same by printing a "skinnier" version of the font. More importantly, requests could be made to the printer manufacturers to include new fonts and special draft versions (like the dot matrix printers had) designed with this economy in mind