Big, bold typography is a hot trend in web design, but which font faces elicit the emotions best suited for your audience?
Emotional responses are strange things. They surreptitiously effect thought processes and are often triggered by the smallest of stimuli. Moreover, they can color a website visitor’s perceptions without them even knowing it. That’s why seemingly inconsequential design choices can have an enormous impact on the way your branding is perceived.
One blatant example of how small choices can lead to big impressions is the effect of typography on brand persona. Although there’s usually a distinct emphasis on legibility and readability for font faces, the fact is the way a font looks can express or emote certain personality traits.
Uniformity and References
One interesting aspect of typography is the universality of the feelings it emotes. Though there’s no reason for a certain font to feel a certain way, the reactions that it elicits are almost always the same. For example, Helvetica fonts are synonymous with credibility. This is the most universally utilized font and it’s also universally equated with an authoritative voice:
Warning labels, street signs, and directions are often printed in Helvetica because of the authoritative connotation. Wide and tall lettering and no frills sans serif stylings combine to make readers stand to attention. In the same way the Comic Sans font expresses childishness and frivolity. There’s no objective reason for the fonts to “feel” a certain way, they just do.
Just because there’s no objective reason, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason at all.
Subjectively, human beings put a lot of stock in nostalgia. In fact, much of our day to day conversation is about references. We constantly refer to stories we’ve heard, things we’ve seen, and collections of words we’ve read. If that’s the case, then it’s no surprise that certain fonts should elicit emotional responses appropriate to their time period or subject matter.
This has actually been the topic of scholarly review in the past. In the research paper, Perception of Fonts: Perceived Personality Traits and Uses, the results of an online survey that tracked people’s reactions to 20 different fonts against 15 different pairs of adjectives showed striking uniformity amongst the answers.
Image Credit: Perception of Fonts: Perceived Personality Traits and Uses by A. Dawn Shaikh, Barbara S. Chaparro, and Doug Fox.
It just goes to show how similarly we all react to individual fonts. To go back to the comic sans example, it’s of course, the font used in comic book word bubble text. When we see something written in comic sans it automatically brings up feelings of humor and triviality.
Because so many of us have read comic strips or comic books in our lives we use these memories as a point of reference when interpreting fonts. That’s why Comic Sans is so despised as a font choice for anything meant to be taken even remotely seriously.
But how can we leverage these points of reference and nostalgia to improve the personality of a brand?
A Font Face Befitting Your Branding
Because typography is generally universal in interpretation, you can assume that your impressions of a font will usually be the same as those of your website visitors. Therefore, you can take your time and choose fonts that symbolize the qualities you want your brand to portray in your own eyes.
Clearly, the more opinions you gather on a font the more sure you can be of its potential effects, but you can generally perform some simple tests with your designers and get a good idea of the kind of typography that would be most effective for your brand.
But to make your life a little easier, I’ve included a cheat sheet that describes the usual impressions that famous fonts are apt to give:
These fonts represent a classical sense of taste and style. They can be used to establish authority and knowledge.
These fonts are designed not to distract from the text. They are bold, clear, and trendy for newer brands.
Thinner fonts that feel familiar and less robotic than older typefaces.
Fonts That Have Personality
Certain fonts can feel more fun, enjoyable, and even cheeky. Many fonts designed to look handwritten can have this effect.
What kinds of emotions do you want your brand’s typography to elicit? Speak to one of our designers about improving the personality of your font choices today!