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.
Your typography is a key part of your brand identity. And the fonts you choose reinforce how customers perceive you, even if they can’t tell you why.
Most people don’t care about fonts
Most people couldn’t care less about fonts. They open up a Word document or presentation. 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 drink Nescafe rather than fresh-ground coffee. Who eat Kellogg’s Cornflakes rather than healthy granola. Who buy Fords rather than Alfa Romeos.
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 choice of typography and font is an opportunity to stand out. If you lead the market, clear repeated use of your font helps customers recognise and remember you. 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 needs to be different from a font for an online fashion brand for millennials. We get it.
We also get why understanding how kerning, tracking and leading 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 probably a font best avoided given how much hate there seems to be for it in the design community. 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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.