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By Pete

The Art Of Font Psychology

Tue 11th October 2022

So you've designed your artwork, chosen your colours and decided on your text. Now all you need to do is pick your font. Believe it or not, there is vast psychology behind fonts and how the reader interprets them, even colours hold connotations to the reader, for example; red can show danger or passion, orange often represents anger, blue can mean depression, nature or calmness, pink often symbolises fun and vitality, and purple is synonymous with luxury. 

We see lots and lots of fonts daily, from the news we read to adverts on our phones or computers. The successful ones will stick with us, while those that miss the mark don't. There are over half a million fonts in the world (source). While most of the web is built upon a handful of popular font types, there's lots of room to pick a unique path. 

An insight into Font Psychology

It is more than just picking a pretty font in the digital world. Choosing a proper typeface for your web design subconsciously influences the readers' decisions. 

You can find that the correct font;

  • Creates unique branding
  • Empowers user experience
  • Influences people through emotion
  • Directs attention

In more than 60% of cases, a sans-serif font is used in logo design. The most common and readable font is Helvetica. It’s found in 21% of logos (Source).

Therefore, just as your site's overall design serves the purpose of telling a story to the user, fonts are elements that further support the narrative. And it's not only what you want your users to see; it's also about how they feel when reading your copy, and fonts help create an emotion you need to serve your site's purpose.

Typesetting a book? A transitional serif font like Baskerville will help readers to feel that the text has more authority and intellect. 

Designing a wedding invitation? The right script font can simultaneously communicate romance, fun, and tradition. 

Let's have a look at some of the most commonly used font styles!

Popular Types of font styles & How to Pick the Right Font

Serif fonts 

You may have heard the term serif fonts, usually known as the "trustworthy font". We are used to seeing serif fonts as symbols of heritage (on historical artefacts and prints), intellect (in books and academic papers), and formality (on fancy invitations and high-end restaurant menus). We perceive serif fonts as trustworthy and dependable. In other words, we know where they've been and that they are often the defining, powerful font style of long-established and respected institutions, such as universities and banks. Aside from colleges and financial institutions, many of which have been using serif typefaces for decades or centuries, other businesses looking to appear equally trustworthy and established can use a serif font to assert this in their branding. Law firms, news channels, and luxury fashion brands.

Examples of standard Serif Fonts to Try: Times New Roman, Baskerville, Courier, ITC Clearface, PT Serif and Garamond.

Examples in Logo Design: HSBC, Wikipedia, TIME, Gap, Dior, Rolex, and Vogue.

Slab Serifs

Slab Serifs are usually known as the "independent powerful" font. Leaning towards a more "masculine" vibe. They tend to be chunkier and bolder. However, they inherit some serif font traits such as stability and tradition but are more distinctive, "in your face". They aren't delicate like serif fonts. The usual suspects of this font are Electronic companies and car manufacturers. But! Be careful! In the wrong context, Slab serif has the potential to come across as aggressive.

Examples of Slab Serif Fonts to Try: Rockwell, Detroit, Darius, BW Glenn Slab

Examples in Logo Design: Sony, Honda, Volvo, IBM, Coach

Sans Serif fonts

Sans serif fonts were formally invented in the early 19th century but only became popular during the 20th century. The modernist movement championed the breakaway from traditional designs. Sans serifs represent a break with tradition, giving these emotional fonts a progressive personality.

In recent decades, these simple and different fonts have defined the branding of many tech companies and social media sites, helping users to feel that these products are forward-thinking—the opposite of the sometimes stuffy, change-resistant reputation of serif styles. The psychological association with progression and modernity also extends to brands that want to appear innovative and adventurous, such as Jeep, Land Rover, and National Geographic. 

Budget airlines, logistics companies, and high-street retailers often use sans-serif fonts to make their customers feel welcome and comfortable. 

Examples of Serif sans Fonts to Try: Arial, Modelica, Open Sans

Examples in Logo Design: Nike, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Spotify, FedEx, National Geographic

Scripts & Handwritten

Often adopted by luxury brands or high-end restaurants in their branding and menus, script and handwritten fonts give a unique and quirky form; these emotional fonts are rarely unhappy. Script fonts also remind the viewer of youth and first romances, making them popular for Valentine's cards and wedding invitations. The association with youth and amusement also makes script fonts popular for children's candy packaging and food products.

Script fonts have a particular history of donning a retro personality. These styles (sometimes referred to as 'diner' fonts) enjoyed spells of popularity in advertising and branding during the 1950s. Brands like Ray-Ban and Coca-Cola have chosen to retain the original script form of their logos­—reinforcing a connection between the past and present and tapping into a nostalgic marketing mood.  

Example Script Fonts to Try: Seldoms, Sinisuka

Examples in Logo Design: Disney, Mailchimp, Ray-Ban, Coca-Cola, Reese's, Pinterest, Virgin, Kellogg's, Budweiser, Cartier

Knowing a little about the psychological effects different font styles can have on the viewer can help you make more informed design decisions, especially when creating brand identities and logo designs. Understanding these effects will allow you to apply the principles of the psychology of fonts to marketing and the psychology of fonts in logos.

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