The Psychology of Typography

Like colour, typography has a huge role to play in creating a strong brand identity, and each has its own implications and personality. Of course all elements of your brand should remain consistent and will continue to communicate a message throughout your current and future content, but your choice of type comes with the added concerns of legibility and how it works as individual letters, words and paragraphs.


With thousands of typefaces and fonts available, choosing the right ones can be an intimidating challenge, so we’ve outlined some of the general messages and feelings each type group will communicate to your audiences to give you the upper hand!



Choosing Your Typeface


Serifs are those little decorative extensions, or feet, at the end of a character’s stroke.

Serif fonts have a classic or traditional feel to them, and are familiar and easily recognisable to us; we see them regularly in printed media such as books and magazines as the serifs make large blocks of texts much easier for us to read in print.


Their traditional aesthetic also comes with the benefits of expressing authority, experience and grandeur, and will promote respect.



Fonts without these decorative finishes are known as sans serif fonts, and due to their minimalist appearance, they tend to create a clean and modern look.


They have become universally popular in recent years, especially with our transition into digital media and web focused design, as these fonts tend to look great even at low resolution.


Serifs with wide, blocky characteristics are known as slab serifs, and with their weight and structure, slab serif fonts portray confidence and boldness. Because of this they are usually used for headings or as display fonts.



Script fonts are built to mimic handwriting, and tend to possess a personal and friendly nature to them, and reflect creativity and expression really well.


Due to their free forms, script fonts can portray a range of things depending stylistic qualities such as weight, flow and shape. Calligraphy based styles, which are probably those that first come to mind when thinking of ‘script’, have a feminine and elegant feel to them. In contrast, those with stronger brushstrokes can capture a more confident and casual mood.



Decorative fonts can fall into any of the above categories, but their features are exaggerated to create an artistic look that catches the eye. They are often great for capturing a certain theme, but in doing so, run the risk of becoming to obvious or cliché.


They are better used as logos, or as accent fonts in design with the purpose of creating contrast and emphasizing important words, as they typically impact on legibility in large sentences and paragraphs.



Impacts of Font


Bold

Just as applying bold styling to your typeface makes it prominent on the page, it has the universal implication of weight and importance.

Italics

Italics is a fairly dynamic stylistic choice in that is can infer a more subtle emphasis, indicate class and pensive thought or, in the right circumstance, indicate sarcasm.

Thin

Using the thin font setting on a typeface tends to have the opposite effect from the above options in that it makes the content more subtle and reduces urgency. It also has the ability to make typefaces more modern and clean in appearance, making thin style fonts great pairings for other heavier and busier typefaces.



Other things to keep in mind when selecting typefaces;


It’s important to remember that your main aim is to deliver information to your audience; whether its for a logo, a pamphlet or a blog. The amount of information and the individual purpose changes with each situation, but whether you are creating a brand personality or educating your audience on the psychology of fonts, you are triggering a need in your audiences brains to read and understand. It is essential to engagement that you are choosing the typefaces that do this most effectively, not just look most impressive on the page.


There are a few things that you should question and double check when you think you have found the right font;



Legibility gets worse as the font size gets smaller.

A typeface that looks great for a single word or heading may not be a great choice for a lot of information. Something that looks awesome on a billboard sign, may also not have as strong an impact on a business card. This is especially important when deciding on fonts for branding, which will inevitably appear across a number of different prints and platforms. Zoom in and out on a font if you’re not sure, and make sure it maintains the same impact and legibility!

In some cases, reducing legibility is a tactical choice, forcing the viewer to slow down from their usual reading speed and take notice of particular items in a design.


You don’t need 100 fonts to create interest and hierarchy

When you want things to stand out across your brand, it can be tempting to go to the font tab and start scrolling for something new. The issue is that you risk your designs becoming too busy and losing uniformity.


Instead, play around with sizing, weight and space to build emphasis.


Bias

The fact of the matter is that some fonts come with bias for or against them from designers and non-designers alike. We are naturally drawn to, or find some fonts appealing. Others have stories, experiences or emotions tied to them. Sometimes it takes a little research to discover these, but especially with today’s online and meme culture, it’s important to know your fonts and their history.


We all know Comic Sans, for example. Some of us cringe, some of us laugh, some would argue that it’s still a great font. The fact remains though, that using it comes with a whole backlog of context and connotations. I watched my old boss use it for some serious marketing signage in store a few years ago, without realizing that anyone under the age of 30 who looked at it would assume it was a joke before reading a word.

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