The Psychology of Typography – What is in a Font?
If you ask people what they think of the typeface ‘comic sans’, you're pretty much guaranteed an hour-long debate. It's a typeface that nobody seems to like or want anywhere near them.
There are many typefaces that are reviled and loved in equal measure. Which is why choosing the right typeface to represent your business and ideas is essential.
A Visual Judgement
The typeface of your text, headline, logo or slogan is a key visual clue to the kind of business you are. As humans, we make judgements every minute of the day – as a driver, we judge whether we can get through the lights before they turn red and as consumers, we judge whether we can ‘trust’ a company.
Therefore knowing what people associate with certain typefaces is vital. For example, swirling texts that mimic handwriting tend to be associated with higher-end products. There are some typefaces associated with children and youth, great for when you want to appeal to this market. But use a child-like typeface with the wrong product, and it can reflect badly on your business.
4 Steps to Choosing the Right Typeface
Step 1: Understanding Typeface Styles
Choosing the right typeface can seem like a nightmare but with our guide, it needn’t be.
The first aspect under consideration is the style of typeface. There are four broad categories:
Serif – this style of typeface has decorative lines added at the ends of each character. If you have a swathe of text, consider this style as it can be easier to read. Not so popular in logos, however, unless you are Google…
Sans – these are typefaces like Arial and Helvetica. Simple and straightforward, their use depends on trends and fashions, although both are still popular.
Slab – these are emboldened typefaces, like Rockwell that stand out a mile. Yahoo designed its own slab typeface. Great when text is sparse but not so easy to read in larger paragraphs.
Script – these are curly, scrolling, whimsy style of typefaces that look like the elegant handwriting of old. Coca-Cola uses a script style typeface, as does Ford. Great when the script typeface you choose is easy to read but stay away from those with too many details, wisps and curls.
Step 2: Understanding How the Typeface Communicates Your Message
The typeface you choose will communicate something about your brand. With so many typefaces available, and constantly growing too, you need to consider carefully what the typeface tells your customers.
Why not start by taking a look at what typefaces your competitors use? Take a look at major competitors in a marketplace.
Innocent smoothies have long promoted themselves as makers of drinks that are relatively healthy, especially when compared to sugar-laden, carbonated drinks. Their typeface is simple, smooth and denotes a sense of goodness, much like the product they sell.
Tropicana is a fun drink, promoting its products as being healthy and full of vitamins. Their current slogan ‘a little glass of goodness’ is making their brand popular as a must-have morning drink. Like Innocent, their typeface is clear but with a change of colour, adds a sense the sense of nature and goodness.
Pepsi is one of the biggest soft drinks companies, their logo and typeface instantly recognisable. They covet their customers by showing them clearly how refreshing a glass of chilled Pepsi can be. Simple, with limited detail – apart from the wavy cross on the ‘e’ – it is instantly recognisable, a typeface they use time and time again, having changed little over the years.
Step 3: What emotion do you want to remind customers of?
Emotion plays a huge part in the decision-making process. Thus, you need to conjure the right set of emotions in your customers – and typefaces play a large part in this process.
Emotions created when look at typefaces are often subconscious happenings. We may have enjoyed a luxurious overnight stay at a 5* hotel and associate that kind of typeface such as the Marriott style calligraphy typeface with high-end products.
Or, we may associate the blunt, rounded typeface with family products, that are child-friendly, a bit like the rounded typeface of Lego.
This makes the psychology behind typefaces far more complex, which is why working with a graphic designer can reap the rewards of detailed knowledge relating to typefaces.
Step 4 – Ease of Reading
If you are communicating information through the written word, it needs to be readable. This means having the correct size and spacing of typeface.
To make some promotional materials easier to read, you need to improve the shape of the word and recognisability for the eye. This is important when people will have only a few seconds to access the information.
This may mean leaving a bigger gap between the letters of individual words. Instead of is reading ‘a refreshing drink’, it may read ‘a r e f r e s h i n g d r i n k’. Close up, it is more difficult to read, but at a distance, the words become much clearer and more recognisable. Try it and see!
Typefaces are an integral part of a successfully designed piece of promotional material, as well as integral to creating your brand.
Remember - it is not about YOUR personal preference, but those of your consumers.