Have you ever wondered how the typeface we choose represents the tone and personality of your brand or style of work?

Typography is everywhere we look and is becoming increasingly popular amongst top brands, playing a key-role in our everyday lives. Fonts help us to navigate, make choices and subconsciously influence the way we think and shop through emotional states. It is therefore important for your business that you understand the power of typography, as this is one of the reasons why companies spend serious money on fonts.

Credit: GQ

In one of the latest editions of GQ magazine you can see that there is a mixture of sans-serif fonts and serif fonts. These styles are commonly used throughout printed materials, whilst sans-serif fonts are mostly used on the web to increase readability and legibility, which is more flexible to responsive design. The bold sans-serif fonts are used to emphasise the contents inside. Whilst the serif font is used for Ed Sheeran’s name to portray “an exclusive” feel and convention. Making you want to pick this magazine up and read more! You’ll also notice the special use of orange. I won’t go into detail on colour theory in this article, but the colour psychology of orange is optimistic. This generates warm feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and warmth. Good old Ed!

In this article I hope to make you aware of the importance of tone & personality within typography. The various styles of fonts available, and how these styles are perceived by users. Along with some of the psychological effects that they have upon us. Be advised though, the font you may chose for your brand may not be available to use on some desktop applications, such as emails or powerpoint presentations. So keep this in mind and find a fallback font that’s similar in style and tone.

This way to Bumper Cars sign

A red arrow sign with good use of sans-serif fonts. The bumber cars wording is red to draw attention and to promote movement and fun.

Tone & Personality

Fonts aren’t just pretty stylised letters and words that make products aesthetically pleasing, they’re used for a reason. Using the right font can completely transform the meaning of a word. It can give it a personality, a back story, and can turn it into something that influences you.

Typefaces can be used to give organisations a voice that says “we’re friendly, we’re exciting, we mean business or even we’re exclusive & luxurious”.

Apple conveys this message well throughout their website and branding. If you’re an Apple product owner and advocate (such as myself), you’ll know that this brand represents quality. Apple uses a sans-serif font on all there products and websites called “San Francisco”. The font is clean, it has great use of compact shapes, and has a subtle roundness which is very friendly and easy to look at on any device. San Francisco is no doubt designed for maximum legibility on the Apple products.

Apple's home page

Apple’s home page.

To Uppercase, Or Not To Uppercase?

DO YOU UPPERCASE TITLES, headings and sometimes both the titles and paragraph text? Do you have a quantifiable reason to do this or do you simply feel the page looks better? If you do decide to mix the styling of your titles and paragraphs, I would advise doing this sparingly as it could have some negative effects on what your business is trying to achieve. To many users having words in uppercase can be portrayed as shouting and instantly make your “soft and friendly” brand tone of voice angry. Which may lead to a bad user experience and subsequently poor conversions. It can also look poor in the Google search results in comparison to your competitors listings.

There will of course be times when you want to uppercase words. For example, maybe you want to promote a special offer, display a warning, or even make a page or product look luxurious.

To accomplish this, I would first advise experimenting with the letter-spacing/tracking (the spacing between whole groups of letters in lines or passages of text), the kerning (the spacing between pairs of letters) and make sure the paragraph text accompanying this is lowercase. By also adjusting the leading of these paragraphs (the vertical space between lines) you can make a huge difference in the overall readability and brand story.

The Ritz London home page website

The Ritz London home page with careful use of sans and sans-serif fonts with letter-spacing.

Above is an example of the Ritz London’s home page implementing some of these techniques. There careful use of a serif font for their headings (Adobe Garamond) conveys a luxurious and exclusive feel. When combined with a sans-serif font (Gibson) the brand tone becomes friendly and welcoming. On a personal note, I have been to the Ritz and stayed over. I can honestly say that as soon you walk through the revolving doors and are greeted by their doorman, the brand tone and personality is carried consistently throughout your stay.

Love & Lilah is another example of a serif and sans-serif font combination used well to convey a certain tone throughout their site.

Typography and fonts are a form of art and if used correctly, they can turn words into stories. For corporations these are powerful brand building stories.

Wilkin Chapman Solicitors home page using a san-serif font combined with blues and greens gives of an honest, trustworthy and well established feel. A brand you can trust.

Tip: When it comes to creating a call-to-action button, be careful which colours you decide to associate with, as it could be the difference between a lead conversion or a bounce.

Types Of Fonts Available

Going back in time when Type became popular, there were many classifications of fonts, each with their own technical definition: Old Style, Blackletter or Humanist. Fonts can now be grouped into 4 main categories each with their own classification system. This is used to help identify, choose and combine fonts.

Sans-serif fonts seem to be the popular choice on the web right now due to it’s legibility and scalability. However, using a serif font correctly can make a huge impression on your brand, product or document and says a lot about who you are as a company.

Types of fonts available

Sans-Serif:

“Sans” means without. These fonts do not have the lines at the ends of characters. 
Examples of San-Serif fonts:

  • Futura
  • Helvetica
  • Avant Garde
  • Arial
  • Verdana

Serif:

Serif fonts have small thin lines attached to the end of strokes in typefaces. 
Examples of serif fonts:

  • Times Roman
  • Courier
  • Georgia
  • Palatino
  • Trajan

Display:

Display type refers to the use of type at large sizes. Some typefaces are considered useful solely for display sizes and are known as display faces. Common features of display type include tighter default letter spacing, finer details and serifs, slightly more condensed letter shapes and larger differences between thick and thin strokes. Many display typefaces in the past, such as those intended for posters and newspaper headlines, were also only cut in capitals, since it was assumed lower-case would not be needed, or at least with no italics. This was true of many early sans-serif fonts.
Examples of Display fonts:

  • Algerian
  • Broadway
  • Cooper Black

Script:

Script fonts mimic historical or modern handwriting styles. They come in many different styles, from elegant, to fun and casual, to hand-drawn which are perfectly suited for invitations, greeting cards, headlines or very short, expressive texts.
Example of script fonts:

  • Bickham Script
  • Brush Script
  • Comic Sans
  • Nadianne
  • Tekton

A red sale window display using a Sans-Serif font in uppercase. Using white text on a red background conveys a warning and almost a urgent rush feel. It’s hard not to look at these.

The Psychological Effects Fonts Have On Us

Fonts influence us psychologically without us knowing. They work similar to how we see clothes on people. When we first see them combined together with other clothes and in different shades of colour, they make a first impression. When someone is talking to you, you take less than 10% of the meaning from the words that they say. The rest of it comes from their tone of voice, their body language and from the clothes that they wear. Clothes can tell the world the type of person you are, it also tells the world who they want to be that day. It is therefore important for your organisation that your choice of font – if combined with one another (not too many) conveys a tone of voice that best represents your business and audience. An incorrect use of a font, style, size or weight could send out the wrong message and lead to a bad user experience.

The UK .GOV website uses sans-serif fonts beautifully. There target audience is huge and therefor needs to be legible to all audiences. With their clean, clear and user friendly font, it’s very easy to navigate around their site and quickly find the right information in the least amount of time possible. If they had opted for a serif version, it may still look nice, but it may add seconds onto the overall time to process the information required.

Fonts are very powerful, if used correctly they can influence not only the emotional state of users; but also their cognitive state. By combining the correct use of fonts, styling and colours, you are more likely to result in users being in a positive mood and enhance their overall positive experience for that page/product.

Preliminary evidence suggests that positive emotions may actually fuel individual differences in resilience and will therefore be more sympathetic to poor user interfaces. However, if designers pick inappropriate fonts, styling and colours, this can send of the wrong tone and make users have negative emotions and be more critical to the UI.

Basecamp using sans-serif fonts with the careful use of green and a light pastel green to convey a positive interaction and experience making the product easy and fun to use.

Interfaces with high levels of attractiveness increase emotional arousal, they are perceived easier and produce a high level of harmony for the user.

Visit Australia

Zooja font – This is a nice looking font that instantly looks like fun and adventure!

So, What Font Are You?

If you’d like to transform and change the way your brand portrays itself to its audience, we can advise you.

John
John is a Web Designer with 8+ years of experience. Working in a variety of industries, he is able to help businesses globally to reach their online potential through 3 core strategies. John doesn't follow design trends, but focuses on crafting the best possible user experience and implementing core marketing strategies tailored around their business goals.

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