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Make a fontastic choice – use the psychology of fonts

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Why read this? : We explore the psychology of fonts, an under-appreciated area of typography. Learn how you can use it to create a more consistent brand identity. Read this to help get your head around the psychology of fonts. 

Following last week’s psychology of colour article, this week, we look at another interesting overlap between behavioural science and creativity – the psychology of fonts.

Typography is a key part of brand identity. The fonts you choose influence how customers perceive your brand, though they’re unlikely to even be aware of this.

Most people don’t care about fonts

This is because most people don’t care about fonts. They open up Word or PowerPoint. Type in words using the default Calibri, Times New Roman or Helvetica Neue. Maybe if they’re feeling adventurous, they might switch to a little Arial or Gill Sans. 

Then they get on with the rest of their day.

But these are the same people who prefer Nescafe to fresh-ground coffee. Who eat Kellogg’s Cornflakes rather than healthy muesli.  Who drive Fords rather than Alfa Romeos. 

Woman wearing smart business suit in front of a laptop looking bored

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with their choices. But when you pick the default choice, you’re playing it safe. Taking the boring option. You’re saying you’ve no opinion, no interest, no desire to be different. 

And for some brands, safe and boring may well be what they want to convey. But for others, life’s too short to play it safe and boring. Brilliant brands want to stand out and be different. 

Your typography and font choices are part of how you stand out. For market leaders, clear repeated use of their font helps customers recognise and remember them. And if you’re a challenger brand, it helps reinforce why you’re different as part of your brand identity

Those who care too much about fonts

When we started to research fonts for our typography guide, we found some people care about typography and the psychology of fonts a bit too much. They’re the opposite of those who don’t care. 

They’re mainly graphic and logo designers. Like most of the 175k members of the typography Reddit thread. And to be fair, reading the content there, there’s a surprising amount to learn about typography. Dig into the different font styles like serif, non-serif and scripts and it’s like a Pandora’s box. Full of tips, tricks and skills to use typography that little bit more skillfully. You can spend hours, days, weeks reading why serifs do or don’t make a difference, for example.

And you know what?

We get it. We get why it’s important to know the difference between old-fashioned and modern types, for example. How you can use the psychology of fonts to help reinforce your brand identity. Why a font for a craft brewery that’s been around for 150 years should differ from a font for an online fashion brand for millennials. We get it.

We also get why kerning, tracking and leading matter. How they can be adjusted to make text easier to read and deliver a better composition and layout. All very clear.

Comic Sans, urgh

And of course, we get why Comic Sans is best avoided given how much hate there seems to be for by designers. Although the Comic Sans subreddit shows it’s very much still alive and kicking out there. 

But. Spend time researching typography and fonts, especially in some of the forums, and you reach a point where some people are just TOO obsessive about it. And we mean really, really obsessive.

Think of typography like car engines. Most people drive their cars without knowing what’s under the bonnet. That’s like those who don’t care about typography at all.

But people who are REALLY into cars know the intricate details of drive shafts, turbochargers and power-to-weight ratios. And people who’re REALLY into fonts know the intricate details of ligatures, descenders, stems and shoulders. But the engine is only part of what creates the ride. And fonts are only part of what creates the visual impression.

The just right approach to typography

For us, there’s an even smaller but smarter group who sit between these first 2 groups.

That’s the mostly marketers who know enough about typography to know it’s important. But they focus on how and where to best use it.

They’re like the drivers and not the mechanics if we keep that corny car analogy going. They’re focused on where they’re going and want to make sure they’ve got the right setup to get them there 

Close up of wine bottle label - reads Reserve Casillero del Diablo Carmenere 2013 Chile

Smart marketers understand the psychology of fonts

So they know that using a clear and distinctive font in your logo design grabs customer attention. It helps brands stand out from the competition. Customers notice great fonts more. 

They know the right font on your packaging reinforces your brand identity at the point of purchase. It makes brands easier to identify by making them more memorable.

And on advertising and websites, the right font reinforces brand personality and tone of voice. Customers make mental connections with the style of font which shapes how they perceive the brand. 

This is why learning the psychology of fonts is so helpful for marketers. You want to make sure the impression your typography makes amplifies the impression you want your brand to have in the minds of your customers. You may not want to become a typography nerd, but it’s helpful to have some knowledge of it.

So visit sites like font squirrel and da font. Check out and download some new fonts. Look at how serif fonts are consistent with traditional brand values like respectability and authenticity. Or how you can make your brand personality look more modern and futuristic by using sans serif fonts. 

Next time you write a presentation, think about your font choice a little more. What’s the impression you want to create? Do you want to be safe? Predictable?

Probably not.

Have a look at fonts which have more character. Though again, NOT Comic Sans.

What if you used a Serif font for your headlines, and a modern sans serif for your body copy? What if you found some interesting script or special fonts you could use to create a stark contrast?

Marketing typography psychology

The risk with typography?

We understand that sometimes the choice of typography can go wrong. Take the Gap example from 2010, where they replaced their 20-year-old font, with a more modern Helvetica look. And got so much criticism, they scrapped it after 6 days. 

We’ve been watching the response to the new Arnott’s corporate logo which reminded us a lot of the Gap story. They changed something with history into something new and modern. 

Except, of course, they didn’t. 

Because anyone who read the story properly, soon realised the original logo was staying on the pack. And this was actually because of a change in the ownership of the business.

There’s a whole separate article we could write on how the general public doesn’t know and doesn’t care about the difference between companies and brands. About how they never read the details of press releases. But we’ll save that for another time. 

For our 10 cents worth, we actually like the “parrot” icon they’ve used on the “A”. But, the font they’ve chosen, and its alignment or lack of alignment seem a bit weird to us. And that blue dot, that’s supposed to be an apostrophe? Don’t get that. 

But whether you like them or not, the new logos and new typography in each case provoked strong reactions. And it’s these reactions which are the key learning. Because you want strong reactions

Conclusion - marketing and the psychology of fonts

We’re not saying you should spend every day thinking about typography and the psychology of fonts. But you should at least understand the theories behind it.

And when it comes to those discussions about fonts in your logos, packaging, advertising and website design, you should know enough about it to talk with confidence and competence.

In competitive marketplaces, you should be looking for every tool you can find to give you an extra edge.

And given, we know how little most marketers know or care about typography, this topic is a little underexploited gem to add to your marketing toolbox. 

Check out our marketing typography guide to learn more. Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more about the value of applying the psychology of fonts to your business. 

Photo credits 

Bored in front of computer : Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

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