Snapshot : There are three types of people when it comes to the psychology of fonts. Those that don’t care. Those that care too much. And the smartest of marketers who recognise it’s another tool in their marketing toolbox to help gain an extra edge over the competition.
As a follow on from last week’s article on colour psychology, this week, we wanted to pick up another interesting overlap between the world of behavioural science and the wold of creativity. And that’s the psychology of fonts.
Now, there are generally three types of people when it comes to typography and fonts.
The vast majority don’t care
By far, the vast majority of people could not really care less about fonts.
They open up a word or presentation document. They type in whatever default Calibri, Times New Roman or Helvetica Neue option comes up. Maybe if they feel adventurous, they might slip in a little Arial or Gill Sans.
Then, they go on about their day.
But these are the same people who buy Fords and Toyotas. The same people who drink Nescafe and eat Kellogg’s Cornflakes.
When you pick the default choice, you are playing it safe. You are saying you have no opinion, no interest, no desire to be different.
And for some brands, maybe safe and sedate is what they want to convey. But you know what, life’s too short to play it dull and boring.
Your choice of typography and font is an opportunity for your brand to stand out.
The nerdy font minority care too much
So, when we started to research typography and fonts for our skill guide, we found there are some people who operate at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to typography and the psychology of fonts.
They may mainly be graphic designers and logo designers for sure. But there’s over 175k members of the typography reddit thread. And when you look through any guide to design books, you see that there’s actually a lot to learn about typography.
From the different styles of fonts, to serifs and non-serifs and script fonts, it’s like opening up a Pandora’s box. Full of minute details and tips, tricks and skills to use typography just that little bit more skilfully. 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 a fashion design studio for millennials. We get it.
We also get why understanding how kerning, tracking and leading can be adjusted to make text more easy to read, and deliver a better composition and layout. All really clear.
Comic Sans, urgh
And of course, we get why Comic Sans is probably a font best avoided given how much hate there’s seems to be for it in the design community. Although the Comic Sans sub-reddit shows it’s very much still alive and kicking.
Spend time researching typography and fonts, especially in some of the forums, and you do 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. Like those who don’t care about typography.
But people who are REALLY into cars know the intricate details of drive shafts. turbo chargers and power to weight ratios. And people who are REALLY into fonts know the intricate details of ligatures, descenders and 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 group who fall between these first two groups.
That’s the people in marketing and e-Commerce 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 can keep that car analogy going.
The right font in your logo design makes a big difference. It’s repeated and memorable and makes your brand stand out from the competition.
When you take the time to learn how typography and fonts work, you learn a skill that most business and most marketers rarely spend any time thinking about. And while we don’t necessarily recommend you become a typography nerd, it’s just one extra string you can add to your bow.
Take the time to visit sites like font squirrel and da font, and check out and download some new fonts. Next time you write a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation, think about your font choice a little more. What’s the impression you want to create? Do you want to be safe and predictable? Probably not.
Have a look at fonts that 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 much 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 in that they changed something with history into something new and modern.
Except of course they didn’t.
Because anyone who actually read the story properly 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 on how the general public don’t know and don’t care about the difference between companies and brands, and never read the details of press releases. Bu,t we’ll save that for another time.
For our ten cents worth, we actually like the “parrot” icon they’ve used on the “A”. But, the font they’ve chosen, and it’s 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 that are the key learning. Because you want to create strong reactions.
Add typography and the psychology of fonts to your marketing toolbox
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.