• Manya Kumar

Are You Using Fonts Correctly?

“Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation, full of endless opportunities for insight or obtuseness.”

― Robert Bringhurst, ‘The Elements Of Typographic Style’.


Typography is one of the most underrated tools of designing. We don’t realise it but, typography affects our perception of any brand or design just as much as any other crucial aspects such as colour, art etc. Typography is one of the first things you come in contact with from a brand. You can either develop trust and confidence in the mind of your customer with the right typography or create confusion and distrust. So let’s understand typography and its impact on the human mind.



Let us begin with a quick history lesson on how typography came into existence and is now how we know it.


Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press in 1440; before the printing press, monks wrote books and scriptures by hand, which was very time consuming and expensive. The first font that the printing press was printing books in was ‘blackletter’, the font is modelled after a style of lettering used by scribes across Europe. It has thick vertical lines and thin diagonal connectors. After that, many fonts were created, and today there are over half a million fonts.


Blackletter

A timeline of the evolution of fonts

As branding and advertising started to flourish, the importance of typography in brand communication was realised. Typography is one of the fundamental things a brand has to decide upon and stay consistent with. Different factors need to be considered before selecting the font of a brand. Let’s get into the basics of typography and make our way to the psychological effects of a type.


BASICS OF TYPOGRAPHY

Typography is the technique of arranging letters in an appealing yet legible way. Typography has two basic parts i.e. typeface and font. A typeface is essentially a collection of letters. Whereas fonts are a subset of a typeface. Fonts follow the rule of the typeface they are a part of but are still unique from the other fonts in that same typeface. Fonts that have similar attributes like weights, widths, and styles, make up a typeface.


Typeface Vs Fonts

ANATOMY OF TYPEFACE

A typeface can be differentiated by parts such as, aperture, ascender, baseline, stroke etc.



MAJOR FONTS AND PSYCHOLOGY

As we saw the evolution, we established the 4 major styles that influence all the other typefaces and fonts under them. These styles are:

  • Serif

  • Sans- serif

  • Script

  • Decorative

Every typeface created falls into either of the 4 styles. Let us take a detailed look at these styles and their influence on the viewer’s psychology individually.


SERIF

Serifs were the first style to come into being, they were inspired by inscriptions and monuments. Serifs were inspired by classical forms which used vertical lines and simple curves. Serifs can be identified by the slight projections that finish the strokes of the letterforms. Some of the common serif fonts are Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia.

The following adjectives are associated with Serifs:

  • Traditional

  • Respectable

  • Reliable

  • Elegant

  • Sophisticated

Serif fonts promote the feeling of heritage and class making them an ideal choice for companies that want to portray themselves as “established”. They emit feelings of trust and respect, making them perfect for brands that want to have a professional and grand feel to them. Formal institutes or Academic schools most commonly use serifs in their communication.


SANS- SERIF

Serif was followed by the rise of Sans- Serif. Unlike the Serif, Sans-Serif has no projections in its letters at the end of the stroke. Sans- Serif has been appreciated for its simple, clean look and high efficiency for reading. Sans- Serif has been primarily used in advertising or headings since the 1830s. With time Sans- Serif evolved from bold and heavily condensed fonts like Grotesque to much friendlier and relaxed yet bold fonts like Helvetica. Some common Sans- Serif fonts are Arial, Calibri, and Futura.


The following adjectives are associated with Sans- Serif:

  • Honesty

  • Clarity

  • Modern

  • Efficient

Sans- Serif are modern and engaging fonts. Their sleek, sophisticated and simple look demonstrates a company’s straightforward and no-fluff attitude. Many brands redesigned their logos and switched from serif to sans-serif font. Sans- serif are a great choice for brands that want to appear modern and trustworthy and straightforward. Generally, clothing brands and technology companies choose sans-serif fonts.



SCRIPT

Script fonts are a mimic of cursive handwriting. There are two main types of script fonts- formal script and casual script fonts. Formal script fonts are fancy scripts; they are easily recognized by the over-the-top flourishes that extend from the serif. Casual script fonts also resemble calligraphy but with lesser swashes. Some popular script fonts are Alex Brush, Pacifico, Lobster.

The following adjectives are associated with a script font:

  • Elegance

  • Feminine

  • Creativity

  • Unique

  • Personal

  • Emotional

The handwritten feel to script fonts allows the brand to feel more personal. When it comes to typography psychology, script fonts are probably the ones most likely to inspire emotional and creative ideas. They’re perfect for when you want to convey feeling, history, or experience, and can be particularly useful for “visual” brands who want to show off their creative side.





DISPLAY/ DECORATIVE

Decorative fonts essentially takes elements from the above styles and creatively mix them to create a unique font. The creative nature and unique characteristics of decorative fonts make them a great option to consider for brands that want to stand out from the crowd. Some common display fonts are Gigi and Jokerman.



The adjectives related to a decorative font are:

  • Casual

  • Creative

  • Fun

  • Original

  • Flexible

Decorative fonts are a great choice for any brand because they can most likely convey the personality of the brand much easily. However, it is important to keep the emotional response from the audience in mind, so a brand should carefully make a decision.


OTHER OPTIONS

There are different ways to bring emphasis to a text other than font. The most common way is to make the text bold, which makes a particular word stand out from the rest of the message. Other ways like italics, underling and strikethrough are also used to attract attention to the text naturally. There are also times when words are made bigger in size to emphasize words.

The colour scheming of a text is also important to consider. Combining any random colour and any random text will not necessarily get the brand the results they are looking for; in the worst-case scenario, the random mixing and matching can result in customers not trusting the brand at all or engaging with the brand at all. To understand colour theory and psychology check out our previous blog (here).


Experimenting with combinations of fonts is also an option that can allow brands to create their original and creative communication style. There is a chance of going overboard with using multiple fonts, so avoid using too many fonts together. Some combinations that one can try are- sans-serif and serif fonts, or sans-serif and script fonts.


There is no right or wrong choice in choosing a font, you have to choose which is the best among all the options. Choosing a font needs a lot of time and careful thinking; always consider what the brand identity is? Is it friendly, sincere, sophisticated, exciting or competitive?

At the end of the day, consistency is the key. There should be no inconsistencies in the fonts that are chosen because it can confuse the viewers and may not allow them to make a clear perception of the brand. It would be recommended to test out the chosen fonts and visuals to see if the brand is receiving the expected reaction from the target audience.