Cost-Benefit as a design principle talks about the tension between the cost of the user’s time, effort, and other resources versus the benefit to that same users. If the perceived cost of a user exceeds their perceived benefit, the user will stop the use of the design. If the value of the benefit exceeds the perceived costs, the user will sustain their use, despite sensing the cost. If a user has to wait too long to get their food at a restaurant, they might get up and leave, despite the fact that they lost time and effort in the process of waiting until that point, and that they will need to find some other way to get the food. If that same diner had waited for weeks for the reservation to open, or had some other perceived valuable benefit to staying despite the wait, they will do so.
I decided to illustrate the concept of Cost-Benefit by considering the costs and benefits of using an interesting but complex font. I was given the idea by Melissa Brisbin, who after hearing the explanation of cost-benefit in design, suggested the creation of a font that was elegant and beautiful (benefit), but not especially legible (cost). I decided to match up the major points of each character between two of my favorite fonts: Gill Sans and Scriptina Pro. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to hate both, as a sensible designer, but I can’t. I just love their lines and forms too much.
If the user finds the font more valuable for its interestingness than its legibility, the user might find a way to use it, despite difficult reading. If the user was looking for a font for a paragraph of text, they might dismiss the font as too difficult to read at that size, despite the potential for beauty or interestingness. Special thanks to Melissa Brisbin for the inspiration for today’s sketch.
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