Type That Really Talks
Understanding that fonts have feelings might just help you convince, convey, and communicate a little bit better
We all use fonts, almost every day. Font is just one of the many powerful tools designers use to visually communicate a message. Some say that type is only as powerful as the words it displays, but I would argue that type is much more than a mere vessel for written copy. Fonts and typefaces convey feelings and sentiments in the same way as music or colour.
For most people this emotional message is something they communicate subconsciously — sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it very wrong. For most of us in the design world, font choice is intentional — at least on some level. This choice can be dictated by many factors: sometimes it’s a brand guideline, perhaps we just really like how it looks, or maybe we’ve simply succumbed to the general consensus that certain fonts are better than others (which would explain the overuse of Helvetica). Whatever the deciding factor, a choice is made. Understanding the psychology of how people perceive type will help you to communicate your message more effectively.
Fonts have feelings, too
We, as human beings, are naturally inclined to project our real world emotional experiences onto the material objects we encounter. We take any opportunity to anthropomorphize — it’s human nature. This means we subconsciously look for human characteristics in inanimate items, like letterforms.
For example, we generally tend to perceive fonts with a rounded build, open forms, or softer angles to be more approachable and friendly. This is because those qualities match our physical expressions when we smile. Smiling makes our face more rounded and it opens up our overall body language. In contrast to smile-like fonts, we see fonts with heavier, sharper angles as more stern or serious. These fonts match our facial expressions when we frown.
Another contributing factor to our emotional assessment of type is association. We grow up learning certain attributes of typographic styles based on what we see around us. As a general rule, we tend to associate serif fonts with a sense of professionalism. This is because most of the…